I was seriously debating whether or not to post my thought on this film at all. I find it incredibly difficult to believe that Sarah Polley, who in her first directorial effort gave us Away from Her, an exceptionally sensitive and mature film, also gave us Take this Waltz, possibly the most infantile and trying film I’ve seen in some time. The difference between the two is startling, and furthermore, entirely disappointing.

The chief problem is with Michelle Williams (Margot), who has all the charm and talent of flaking paint. She seems physically incapable of inhabiting any role she plays, and the point is especially driven home here. Whether it is a fear of embodying a different persona or an inveterate aversion to displaying any sort of emotion, sitting through her performance requires the patience of a saint. For two hours, the audience is forced sit through Margot’s seemingly perpetual doleful apathy as she finds herself stranded between two points, as the painfully overwrought airport metaphor draws out for us. I have seen too many films in which an unhappy housewife is attracted by the possibilities of a more fulfilling life, but Polley fails to presents either the cause or potential solution to Margot’s tragic bourgeois trappings. The character is immature at best, and positively ingratiating at worst, as she spends the majority of the film looking blank and ambivalent towards everything that happens. I found myself echoing Luke Kirby’s character’s words: “What is the matter with you?”

The rest of the film fares no better, as it is dominated by a ludicrously juvenile script, laden with pretentious metaphors and awkward conversation. Aesthetically, the scenes are crowded with all manner of kitsch and twee, from checkered tablecloths to Margot’s range of Target sundresses. Only Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby are the saving graces, both subtle and surprisingly complex (although I suppose, next to Williams, standing water has greater emotional range). A scene featuring the work of Balint Zsako, one of my favourite artists, was also a welcome surprise; although unfortunately the scene itself played out like a secondary school version of a similar scene in Unfaithful, in which Diane Lane visits her mysterious lover’s adultery-ready apartment.

This is not to say that there are no similar characters to Margot, who feel frustrated at a certain point in their life, and may present as immature and directionless. The problem is that Polley expects too much sympathy for the character from the audience, the impetus for which is never delivered, and so resistance folds into resentment. Keep your waltz, Ms. Polley – I’m not entirely sure what to do with it.

Advertisements