I specifically started watching Take This Waltz (2011) because of Seth Rogen’s involvement. I wouldn’t say I’m his biggest fan, rather I was intrigued by the idea of Rogen starring in a serious film about relationships, their fragility, and life-changing decisions which are ours to take.
What I thought was going to be a romantic dramedy on the lines of Spanglish (2004) turned out to be something much more rewarding. The film is totally character-driven with exceptionally subtle heartfelt performances coming from Michelle Williams, and (surprisingly) Rogen. I’ve never seen him so contained. If anyone needed proof that comedians make the best dramatic actors, here it is. He still managed to crack me up with his delivery of a very Apatowesque line exactly halfway through the movie.
The story is quite a simple, contemporary one. Margot (Williams), who has been happily married to Lou (Rogen) for five years, feels their relationship has lost its spark and begins to fall for charismatic Daniel (Luke Kirby), who earns his dough pulling a rickshaw through town.
Aesthetically, Take This Waltz is pretty to look at. It presents itself as a postcard of sorts, the use of vivid contrasting hues reminds one of Amelie (2001). I was impressed with the unconventional way sound was tackled; in one scene where William’s character is in a dining room and Rogen’s is sitting just outside the window, what starts out as the non-diegetic soundtrack on the inside becomes inaudible from the outside. As the camera cuts back to the interior, the music becomes clear once again, effectively mimicking how in the real world the sound would be heard from two characters’ different locations. A very simple (albeit stylish) editing trick that helped make the situation more believable.
Story-wise, Take This Waltz is as enlightening as it is depressing. The protagonist is someone anyone (or most of us) can sympathise with, although being extremely difficult to root for. She doesn’t even try not to indulge the man who is clearly trying to break up her marriage with Lou who obviously loves her, although clearly oblivious to her wants.
It is a realistic take, if somewhat pessimistic, on contemporary relationships which tells a story of the search for satisfaction on one level, and the search for the new that never remains so on another level. If the dialogue was lacking at times, Sarah Polley’s direction and the on-screen talent more than made up for it. Michelle Williams excels in speaking volumes with her facial expressions and body language and Rogen was perfectly cast as the kindhearted, goofy, somewhat pitiful husband who is blissfully unaware of his crumbling marriage.
Sarah Polly flourishes in her ability to convey the plight of the fragile individual trying to make it in a committed relationship. In her previous film, Away From Her (2006), I was taken aback at the way the main character who loved and lived with his wife for forty four years finally decides to lie with someone else. I did not appreciate such a surprising twist, particularly as it made me re-evaluate all the empathy I had invested in this character who through his life-long loyalty, portrayed the epitome of love. Gradually I grew to understand Polly’s intentions; Away from Her was about real human beings tortured with flaws, self-doubts and who, very much like in real life, grow through their failures rather than through their triumphs. Sinners rather than saints.
The characters in Take This Waltz were treated no differently. Daniel is obviously needy, manipulative and a home wrecker – deceptively thoughtful and caring at times but in hindsight, a python eying his prize and biding his time before going in for the kill. Margot is clearly insecure, childish and someone who, try as she might, can never be truly satisfied. It is evident that she’s consciously forfeiting the love and security her husband provided in the search of the thrills and excitement someone ‘new’ can provide.
As condemnable as Margo’s course of action seems to be, her actions are redeemed by her realisation that in spite of the incessant show-stopping sex and instant satisfaction she finds in her new relationship with Daniel, routine sets in and what was exciting yesterday becomes prosaic today. This is shown in an exquisitely poetic climactic montage, which should be used in film-school lectures as a great example of how to effectively tell a story in less than five minutes.
Summing up, this beautiful little film gives much food for thought about the concepts of love and satisfaction. It is a pragmatic portrayal of the irony of human nature – the constant search for stability, security and the illusion of perfection obtained only through satisfying our possessive nature and quenching our thirst of wants.
Such wants can take the form of people or even objects in our lives which always seem to be beyond our imminent grasp; only for us to grow bored of these gifts once they’re in our possession – and resort to using them as stepping stones to something new.
As goes one of the most beautifully put lines in the film – “Sometimes I just want something new. New things are shiny.” Followed by the inevitable answer – “New things get old.”
Have you watched Take this Waltz? What did you think of it? Has this review affected your opinion of it in any way? Let me know in the comments below!
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