Reviewed by Marc Glassman
Polley’s second feature as a director Take This Waltz was eagerly anticipated at last year’s TIFF. After all, her debut directorial endeavour Away From Her had garnered international recognition and was a rare Anglo-Canadian film success. While audience and critical responses were respectful, Take This Waltz didn’t get the attention—or the awards—that Polley’s first film received.
Romantic comedy; romantic drama; romantic tragicomedy?
Margot, an aspiring writer and tethered free spirit, meets Daniel, another likeably quirky individual while both are on the road. Taking a taxi together back from the airport, they discover that they live on the same street in one of Toronto’s funky downtown neighbourhoods.
That’s fine for Daniel but not for Margot, who is married to Lou, a sweet but oblivious cookbook writer. What’s Margot to do? Stay with a lovely man, who adores and protects but doesn’t understand her or run off with Daniel, a difficult uber-cool artist who “gets” Margot but may not need her?
While Margot remains hopelessly undecided—in love, in many ways, with both men—Polley crafts a cinematic poem to Toronto. Never have the streets of Little Portugal or the glories of Centre Island been as beautifully evoked as in this film. Through the haze of a hot summer, Margot’s life with Lou and longing for Daniel achieve a rare and persistent reality.
Decisions have to be made—and Margot makes them in a surprising but perhaps inevitable manner. Hearts are broken and won in Take This Waltz.
Top notch. The newly fit Seth Rogen is charmingly persuasive as Lou, Margot’s husband, who is in love with her but also doomed to be a perpetual adolescent. Luke Kirby, who partnered Sarah Polley in the ridiculously underrated Luck (2003), is fine as the complex Daniel. In the key role of Margot is Michelle Williams, who brings her wonderfully authentic presence to the film. In a showy if minor part, Sarah Silverman is comic, difficult, perverse and showy as Margot’s beloved and troubled sister-in-law.
Polley brings her immense talent and authority as an actor to the role of director. She always gets fine performances and is developing an eye for lyric details in key scenes. Ms. Polley is still a relative neophyte as a director. She may grow into the finest filmmaker of her generation.
That said, Take This Waltz meanders quite a bit. Polley the scriptwriter may have let Polley, the director, down. This critic “got” the story and went with the emotions of the tale but it’s clear that not everyone will agree. Next time out, a stronger scenario would help Polley’s sterling directorial effort.
As a juror, I picked this film as the best in Canada’s Top Ten poll last winter. I wrote and stand by these words: “Sarah Polley’s heartbreakingly funny and passionate Take This Waltz takes the clichés of melodrama and obliterates them. In a genre that insists on heroes and villains, she offers a nuanced look at modern love, with all of its contradictions and exquisitely painful eroticism.”