‘Take This Waltz’

One reason why people love watching movies is the escapist quality inherent to the artform. And it’s not just about movies taking you to different places and times. Occasionally, when the right type of movie hits you at the right time, there’s something more sublime to the experience. It’s also about seeing the relationships you wished you had, and the relationships that perhaps you’ll never have.

A movie that can do this to you is Take this Waltz, Sarah Polley’s follow-up to the deeply moving Away From Her. The film borders on the fantastic — from the vibrant rainbow colors of the world the characters inhabit to the peculiar childlike behavior of Margo (Michelle Williams), the movie maintains a sense of a heightened reality.

Margo meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), a cavalier guy who’s aware of his own good looks and charms, while doing a historical tour in Louisburg. As luck (or the rules of scriptwriting) would have it, their seats happen to be beside each other on their flight home to Toronto. They share an intimate journey together that doesn’t quite cross the line into romantic territory, but you’d have to be blind not to see the sparks fly. 

They take the same cab ride together and just before he drops her off, Margo drops a bomb:

“I’m married.”

Not to be outdone, Daniel replies:

“That’s too bad, because I live here.”

It turns out that the series of (un)fortunate coincidences wasn’t over — they’re neighbors. What happens next is an intricate dance between Margo, Daniel and her husband Lou (Seth Rogen), with Margo torn between her partner for five years and the personification of her deep-seated fantasies. In all honesty, Margo has absolutely no reason to ever want to leave Lou. He’s romantic, he’s a nice guy and he can cook chicken in lots and lots of ways (he writes cookbooks on how to cook poultry). But here comes Daniel anyway, the manic pixie dream guy who exudes mystery and passionate romance, and Margo gets attracted to him like a moth to a flame.

On one hand you can say that the movie captures the natural progression of love — people fall in love, and they also fall out of love. It’s a brutal truth that sometimes, no matter how hard you work on a relationship, there really is nothing left to salvage and there’s nothing else that can be done. But it’s also hard not to sympathize with Lou and how he is victimized by Margo’s vacillation. He really has no chance against Daniel because Daniel isn’t a real character. He’s just too perfect to be anything real. Instead he’s the embodiment of a set of circumstances that takes Margo out from the reality she has constructed for herself, a confluence of factors that made her examine whether the relationship she had was one worth keeping.

Behind Polley’s exquisite, lush shots is a rich contemplation on choices, the fear that accompanies making them, and the courage needed to eventually come to a decision. When it comes to love, there rarely are right or wrong choices. There are just hard ones.

7 comments
  1. Luke Kirby made quite an impression on me in the Canadian TV show “Slings & Arrows” as a movie star slumming for a summer by playing Hamlet (opposite Rachel McAdams’ Ophelia) in a small Canadian Shakespeare theatre festival. McAdams has already hit it big in Hollywood, will this film give Kirby the push to take his career to the next level like his erstwhile costar? By the way, Polley also joined the cast of the show in its last season, playing Cordelia in King Lear. But she was already a well-established indie actress/director by then and seemed to have done it solely out of fandom for the show and patriotism for Canada.

    • everything good about canadian film/tv seems to be on that show that you keep on raving about. maybe i should go see it.

  2. Well… it’s more like there’s not much to Canadian film/tv so the same people keep popping up, I think 🙂 The show is only as good based on how much you enjoy Shakespeare. First few episodes are kinda iffy but the season 1 finale really packs a punch, even if you’ve always though Hamlet to be a drag. One of the best “abridged” adaptations I’ve seen. Sige, you watch Slings, I’ll watch Girls… But I already have the episodes saved & ready though!

    • Thanks. I didn’t know who he was either before this. I also thought that Seth Rogen was quite good.

      • Massiel said:

        Luke Kirby made quite an impression on me in the Canadian TV show Slings & Arrows as a movie star smmilung for a summer by playing Hamlet (opposite Rachel McAdams’ Ophelia) in a small Canadian Shakespeare theatre festival. McAdams has already hit it big in Hollywood, will this film give Kirby the push to take his career to the next level like his erstwhile costar? By the way, Polley also joined the cast of the show in its last season, playing Cordelia in King Lear. But she was already a well-established indie actress/director by then and seemed to have done it solely out of fandom for the show and patriotism for Canada.

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