Director: Sarah Polley
Cast: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman
Running Time: 116 min
Release Date: August 17th
If you’ve ever been out with someone and, at the approach of a particularly attractive stranger, let that arm slide off your beloved’s shoulder, Take this Waltz might be painful viewing. It’s an examination of what happens when companionship sours and familiarity becomes resentment; when to be yourself in the company of your significant other is to cause an argument. I’m reminded of Miranda July’s The Future, released last year. Like this film, which is Polley’s sophomore effort, The Future deals with the effects of time and maturity on the prerogatives of hip folk. Taken together, these films may signal a sort of coming of age for American/Canadian independent cinema; or, they may be instances of the indie form playing out its own demise. Whatever’s happening, we’re not in Garden State anymore.
The title, from a bleak Leonard Cohen song, refers to the dance on which Margot (Michelle Williams) leads the other people in her life. These include her husband Lou (Seth Rogan) and her neighbour Daniel (Luke Kirby). Lou is writing a cookbook, Margot works for Canadian Heritage and Daniel, a self-described “modern-day hobo,” pulls a rickshaw; they all live in a bohemian suburb of Toronto. Satirizing indie convention, the film has Margot and Daniel collide again and again with impossible serendipity until adultery seems unavoidable. (It speaks to the characters’ ineffectualness that the only time they ever actually plan to meet each other is during a daydream sequence near the end.)
Polley uses her characters’ quirky charm to draw us in, and we only discover halfway through that this charm is in fact a symptom of their immaturity. The only characters who can see this are Margot herself and Lou’s alcoholic sister-in-law Geraldine, a holy fool sort played by Sarah Silverman. Partly since teetotaler Silverman doesn’t do a great drunk, Geraldine’s the weak link. She’s only really there to iterate the film’s moral: that life will always lack something, and that it takes a certain amount of maturity to deal with this. Margot seems to think that a reinvigorated sex life will solve all of her problems, and breaks down when things don’t work out. If, like me, you’re in the film’s young-ish demographic, you’ll be able to relate; surprisingly harsh are the emotional and psychological wages of minimum wage-supported idleness. In Take this Waltz, as in The Future, Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, and plenty more contemporary indie-style films, relationships are destroyed because of a general inability to commit to life. It remains to be seen whether the playful old indie sensibility will be compromised by this heavier material.