Sarah Polley is Canada’s new favourite indie filmmaker. After years of television acting, she released her first directorial effort and was praised by critics. Away from Her wowed audiences at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival with its daring performance from an ageing Julie Christie learning to live with Alzheimers. Take This Waltz, however, misses the mark massively. Ten minutes in and I was already ready to side with Claudia Puig of USA Today who says “take this waltz and shove it!” Although the film is beautifully shot in a fruit bowl of colours, its characters are so self-indulgent that the end result is pure twaddle.
Michelle Williams is Margot, a 28-year-old struggling writer who is unhappily married to Lou (Seth Rogen), who’s writing a cookbook about chicken. Margot’s constant restlessness and unexplained melancholy magically dissolves when she meets rickshaw driver Daniel (Luke Kirby) at an airport, and then finds out he’s her neighbour. They both feel the sexual chemistry, but Margot is reluctant to cheat and tries to stay away from Daniel. At the same time she is desperately trying to repair the cracks in her marriage, but her husband of five years is more interested in finding new ways to cook chicken than seducing her.
It is not the acting that makes it insufferable, as Michelle Williams puts in a good performance as the young woman in crisis, but the characters and their little annoying idioms. The cutsy games between the couple, like describing how they want to kill the other, ex. ‘I want to skin you with a potato peeler’ just become the irritating bits you’d skip if this were a book. Similarly, Margot’s irrational fear of making connections in airports “I’m afraid of wondering if I’ll miss it, and end up rotting in a terminal somewhere.” is altogether too obvious a metaphor.
The only conclusion I can take from this childish and predictable story is that peeing in front of your partner will destroy your relationship.