Movie Review: Take This Waltz (2011)

There are plenty of slice-of-life, marriage-gone-bad, grass-is-greener types of stories out there. So, when this movie came out, I stayed away because, despite my complete respect for Michelle Williams as actor extraordinaire, I did n0t think the world needed yet another one. And, I was wrong. Of the few shows/movies that I watched this Memorial Day Weekend, this will continue to haunt me for some time.

Sarah Polley, the director, is proving her moviemaking chops with each new venture. There is so much to love about this one (and I loved her first one, Away from Her, as well). Exploring the deep vulnerabilities of each main character through their relationships with each other, Polley shows how charged our everyday interactions are–how we give ourselves away with the slightest of looks/words/gestures without quite realizing it or barely realizing it after the fact.

And the cast: Michelle Williams delivered beyond expectations, as always (more in a bit); Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman showed their multi-level ranges; and Luke Kirby was not just breathtakingly hot (just watch the bar scene with him and Michelle where he does a monologue of what he’d do to her–oh my) but also skillfully calibrated the intensifying relationship’s energies as the movie progresses.

A little more about Michelle Williams’ character, Margot. If there are just two words to sum up Margot, they would be: afraid and helpless. Every attribute that Margot possesses–her playfulness, charm, beauty, neediness, brittleness, annoyingness, patheticalness, etc.–stems from those two emotions. This is a woman who will never realize her dream of becoming the kind of writer she wants to be or figuring out the kind of existence she’d like best because those things require certain measures of courage, creativity, and self-steering. But, throughout, you watch her struggling and trying. And, in that trying, even if most of it is futile, she is everywoman–she reminds the rest of us women of ourselves. When she says, with a heartbreaking helplessness, to Daniel (Kirby’s character), “I want to know what you’d do to me”, and he draws in his breath with a low “Wow”, you see that she is too afraid to even allow herself to fantasize about this man and too helpless to pull away from him at the same time.

Towards the end of the movie, Silverman’s character, Geraldine, delivers a classic line: “Life has a gap in it. It just does. You don’t go crazy trying to fill it.” And, it struck me that what these characters’ lives have done is show us how the gaps are precious and critical. Some of us will interpret “gaps” as emptiness, some as necessary punctuation. Either way, the gaps are what make the rest of our mundane, everyday happenings even more shimmeringly and enduringly real–kinda like music, where the pauses are just as, if not more, important, than the notes being played.

I’m looking forward to watching Polley’s documentary, Stories We Tell, soon. She explores how we tell stories to each other through those about her own mother. This is a director who knows the power of stories and how to show-and-tell them.

Oh, and the movie title is from a brilliant Leonard Cohen song. This man’s voice is magic.
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