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TAKE THIS WALTZ (director/writer: Sarah Polley; cinematographer: Luc Montpellier; editor: Christopher Donaldson; music: Jonathan Goldsmith; cast: Michelle Williams (Margot), Seth Rogen (Lou), Luke Kirby (Daniel), Sarah Silverman (Geraldine), Graham Abbey (James), Jennifer Podemski (Karen), Diane D’Aquila (Harriet); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Susan Cavan/Sarah Polley; Magnolia Pictures; 2011)

“Frank but contrived romance story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Canadian actress-turned-director Sarah Polley (“Away from Her”) writes and directs this frank but contrived romance story, that shows how a so-called happy marriage can come apart so unexpectedly.

On a plane trip to Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, the site of an 18th century fort on a National Historic Park, tourist brochure writer Margot (Michelle Williams) meets Daniel (Luke Kirby) while watching an enactment of punishing an adulterer by a whipping. Then they conveniently by accident sit together on the flight home to Toronto, and when they share a cab ride home they surprisingly discover that they live across the street from each other. The 28-year-old aspiring writer Margot is happily married for five years to aspiring chicken cook book author Lou (Seth Rogen) and they share a comfortable life together. They have a playful childish relationship that calls for talking to each other in goofy voices, play wrestling and playing personal tasteless verbal games by telling of ways of deforming each other with kitchen utensils. Upon meeting her handsome neighbor, a quiet and intense loner 29-year-old, who works as a rickshaw driver for a daytime gig and secretly toils as an artist by night, she knows immediately that he’s the one she loves but backs off. In a creepy way Daniel always pops up to meet her, while she tries avoiding him. Though trying to avoid him, she can’t. When Daniel comes on strong, telling her how much he’d like to be inside her she doesn’t shy away from his sexual come-on. As the summer gets on, their restrained relationship intensifies with secret meetings, while she gets pissed that her busy recipe seeking chicken author hubby can’t verbally express his love for her except childishly. For most of the film, the conniving and selfish Margot tries to choose between her nice guy hubby and the somewhat darker mysterious stranger. But the deck is stacked, and for no clear-cut outward reasons for a marriage-break-up, Margot chooses the more arty suitor. We are left to assume that he’s the one who touched her heart more than hubby can.

I found the three main characters creepy, but in different ways. Though flawed, these characters appear like real people and their actions even if morally unsupportable supports the logic of the story. But that doesn’t mean I had to like what I saw. Instead I liked the performance of Michelle Williams, playing so well such an unsympathetic character without glamor, and, even though some parts of the film were depressing, overall it was bubbly and makes the valid point that love can be a hurtful experience. It’s a mature film, that takes the tropes usually found in sitcom romances, but mixes in more astringent ingredients to make it more edgy and spicy flavored. It realistically notes that one can’t escape aging or should not get overwhelmed with passion because it’s so deceiving. It relates life experience to finding a shiny new thing that will one day get old and lose its shine. That bon mot was established in its most diverting scene, where in the shower stalls of a public swimming pool three naked younger women, with still firm bodies, talk about romance in a flighty way, while in another stall three naked older women, with flabby bodies, talk about romance from their more jaded viewpoint.

The film’s title is lifted from one of the songs of the legendary Canadian singer Leonard Cohen, and is played near the film’s end accompanying a wild sex scene.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”