Starring: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman
Directed by: Sarah Polley
Still riding from the critical success of her directorial debut Away from Her, Sarah Polley's follow-up feature, Take This Waltz, continues a string her personal series of dealing with conceptually heavy-handed material. Though, unlike Away from Her, it doesn't quite deem itself as successful due to one primary factor: the cast.
Margot (Michelle Williams) is a happily married woman. Living day-to-day with a smile on her face with cookbook-writing husband Lou (Seth Rogen) in a idyllic, suburban lifestyle amidst the blistering heat of Toronto. It isn't until she meets the artist across the street, Daniel (Luke Kirby), that her affections detour towards another man, bringing to light a dozen insecurities she has about her marriage and her lifestyle itself.
Polley knows what she's doing; her directorial techniques are what i'd personally deem quaint. The lighting is often intensely dazzling, splashing together a cornucopia of fresh colours amidst a searing summer. But while she captures what the most settled, idyllic and dream-like lifestyle, it parallels quite extensively with a heavy plot that deteriorates said pre-conceived ideas of what route Take This Waltz will be taking, and by so introduces awkwardness and guilt into a seemingly ordinary love story.
Williams, a firm favourite of myself, is tremendous, and typically deals with a character who weighs herself down with said guilt almost instantly. Introduced to Margot as a fun-loving, chirpy and effortlessly perky married woman, she turns sour and rigid at the thought of another day with Lou, a man whose primary concern appears to be, as of late, chicken -- the preparing of it in multiple ways for his cookbook extends Margot's tremendous boredom of her current married life.
Daniel, however, is new. His fresh outlook of Margot makes her feel young and wanted, thus triggering a battle of self-preservation against hormones that are entirely natural. Margot isn't a particularly likeable character; perpetually mousy with a gradually lesser respect for husband Lou. But whilst Michelle Williams plays her, we can't help ourselves. And with chemistry as loveable and real as that between Williams and Kirby, there aren't any complaints. We invest ourselves immediately, but whilst Williams continues as the most naturally charming and deftly humourous thing Take This Waltz has to offer, the intentions are thrown to the wind.
With a supporting cast which consists of Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman, two of the most well-known, naturally comedic acts that most know, it bewilders that they're subdued to a backhanded husband and a failing alcoholic, and thus we're stuck with giggling over Margot urinating in a swimming pool. They're useful for a few minutes before taking stance in the back of anything.
It's not quite as polished and emotionally-crafty as Away from Her, but Take This Waltz is expertly handled. Though the casting sometimes splits opinion, it's swamped with beauty and truth, and as unnerving and anti-romcom as it may appear, it works as something entirely fresh. A subtly charming lead performance from Williams will trap attentions as Polley masterfully unravels an ordinary marriage into oblivion.
Verdict: A moving, fresh drama from passionate filmmaker Sarah Polley, even if its sharpness doesn't quite rival that of her previous feature.