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Take This Waltz

A film by Sarah Polley

Featuring the reliably terrific Michelle Williams in one of her best roles, as a hipsterized, slightly unhinged woman who got married too young and meets a mysterious stranger who makes her regret it, Take This Waltz is frank, erotic, often very funny and sometimes startling, with an underlying tragic sensibility. Filmmaker Sarah Polley has a wonderful ear for dialogue and an even better eye for the nuances of character and relationship. It’s clear that Polley’s assured first feature, Away From Her, was not a fluke, and very suddenly she looks like one of the most interesting indie auteurs on the North American scene. The film was largely shot in Toronto, showing off the city’s attractive inner neighbourhoods, with their attached rowhouses, deep porches and vaguely funky vibe. Borrow a Leonard Cohen song for the title, and there’s simply no way the movie was not going to be embraced by Canadian audiences. But there’s nothing specifically Torontonian about the complicated performances Polley gets from her cast, or her often thrilling use of pop music, or the combination of humour, sympathy and dispassion with which she views Margot, Williams’ character. When we first meet Margot and her husband Lou (played by Seth Rogen, who is so good here I almost forgave him for Green Hornet), they seem pretty much OK, certainly better than some other couples you and I have known. She has some kind of dead-endish job with Parks Canada, and he’s writing a cookbook about chicken. You might not think there’s all that much comic and/or symbolic gold to be mined in such a dumb, basic gag – Lou’s a great cook but only makes chicken, night after night after night – but you would be wrong. Sure, Lou and Margot have some weird little passive-aggressive private games, like the one where they talk about how they’re going to maim and murder each other, or the one where they tell each other they love each other in little baby-alien voices. (Almost anyone who’s ever been in a long-term relationship will wince with some degree of painful recognition.) Thing is, by the time we meet Margot and Lou, we already know that Margot has met someone else and that it threatens to be serious. She bumped into slim, dark and diffident Daniel (Luke Kirby) on a business trip. Then she bumped into him again on the plane coming home and flirted outrageously – and only when they found out that they lived across the street from each other did she ’fess up that she was married. That deters Daniel only a little, and then they start ‘running into each other’ almost every day. Eventually, she goes out on a coffee date with him and sits there saying almost nothing while Daniel explains, in intimate detail, what he’d like to do to her. Polley’s dialogue crackles with energy, and regardless of your gender or orientation, that scene is one of the sexiest purely verbal episodes in the history of cinema. Margot’s predicament is a familiar one for characters in novels written by women with three names, or protagonists of Lifetime movies: the dull but likable guy I’ve already got, or the handsome and mysterious stranger who turns me on? But to see it applied to a highly believable contemporary young woman feels almost like a radical departure. Take This Waltz is ambitious both cinematically and emotionally, and poses the kinds of questions about love and sex and duty and responsibility for which life does not provide reliable answers. With its potent central triangle and a supporting cast headed by Sarah Silverman (as Margot’s alcoholic sister-in-law), Take This Waltz is a heartbreaking love story set in a world where every choice you make has serious consequences and ‘happily ever after’ is an unlikely outcome. It’s definitely not a movie for everyone – but if it’s for you, you’ll never forget it. – Andrew O’Hehir, SalonOfficial Trailer
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Directed by: 
Sarah Polley
Running Time: 
Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, Luke Kirby
Screenplay by: 
Sarah Polley

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