Hmm: Take This Waltz review

Take This Waltz is disorienting from the start, in no small part due to the fact that it is set in present-day Canada and my narrow, jingoistic American brain  could not figure out why Michelle Williams kept saying ‘soory’ until forty minutes into the movie. But even after I finally figured that out, the first two thirds of the film are still eyeroll inducing. Unfortunately, Take this Waltz suffers from Serious Writer syndrome,  an ailment comprised of faux subtlety and other advanced creative writing tropes that tends to afflict earnest, indie films like this one, about ordinary people with ordinary problems.

Margo, the film’s protagonist, meets cute with a guy in Montreal at some sort of 18th century colonial reenactment town. With the sort of happenstance that only occurs in the movies, they meet again on the plane back to wherever it is they live in Canada and immediately have one of those metaphorical conversations, too rich and too hokey to be true. “I’m afraid of missing connections.” Margo says to her muscular confidante Daniel played by Luke Kirby, one of those actors who you’ll feel like you’ve seen in a thousand recurring guest roles on TV, but whose name always escape you. Daniel, like characters in movies with Serious Writer Syndrome tend to do, can parse Margo’s intentions with the keen acumen of someone that only the creator of all the characters can posess. He is also a rickshaw driver. 

In another stroke of happenstance, Daniel is Margo’s neighbor and it’s upon this realization that the dilemma of the film begins in earnest. You see, poor Margo, a writer (of course) suffers from That Problem That Has No Name. It’s the same problem that plagued generations of white middle class women in the ’60s and contributed directly to the second wave of feminism. Margo has a loving husband, a nice house, some friends, but she is still unhappy, rudderless, ‘restless’ as her muscular confidante Daniel tells her with the aforementioned acumen of an omniscient movie character.

Up until the last thirty minutes of the film, the movie is not especially compelling unfortunately. There are just too many little Serious Writer things that wreck it.

For instance, the marriage shorthand between Seth Rogen and Margo is too ludicrous to take seriously. They act like children. Literally. They tickle each other. They talk in baby voices. They declare their love in graphic contradictions ‘Love Interruption style. (Sample: ‘I love you so much, I want to rape you with scissors until you bleed to death.’) It’s the classic Serious Writer touch, give the couple some sort of cutesy idiosyncracy to make the audience believe that this couple is ‘real’ and ‘full’ and ‘developed.’ But it’s s actually just incredibly contrived and annoying.

Then there are the conversations between Daniel and Margo, again fraught with obvious subtext and metaphor. Margo gives an extended speech about her niece as a baby and how she cried and how there was nothing she could do because sometimes people are just sad. (Get it, Margo is really talking about herself!) But the only people I know who talk like that are people in Serious Writer movies.

Take this Waltz becomes something special only in the last thirty minutes. Only then does it take an unpredictable turn and invite nuance and challenge. Suddenly the central question the film raises, ‘how to fill life’s gaps?’ is sobering and thought-provoking.

So I guess this is a recommendation. Watch it and then we can argue about it like my 11th grade English class did about The Awakening  some years ago.


2 Comments on “Hmm: Take This Waltz review”

  1. sam says:

    I really agree with your review. I actually giggled at the ridiculousness of some of the writing while I was in the cinema. I think it was also hilarious that the best line in the movie “life has gaps… it just does, you don’t go crazy trying to fill them” was so redundant coming from a woman who fills hers with alcohol. It was kind of bizarre and I absolutely agree to the idea that white middle class women are largely unhappy just like they were in the 60’s because they buy into an idea of marriage that has been handed down through generations. They marry men that are ‘safe, comfortable and good providers’ nothing has changed. For the few women that break free from this and actually honest with themselves and rebel against it, well they are just “selfish, crazy, confused, sad people” – women are their own worst enemies and Sarah Polley hasn’t helped one bit with this film. Women all over the world are pretending, ignoring or suffering in silence to their unhappiness and the men they marry continue to be good providers, sweet and kind and turn a blind eye to their wives suffering, doing nothing about it and hoping it will go away. WHat goes away eventually is the love, the committment, the respect and then eventually the marriage. The best acting in the film was when Michelle Williams didn’t actually speak, I love her acting but the character and all the stupid behaviour between her and her chicken cooking husband was way off the mark and unbelievable. I actually thought maybe she had an intellectual disability that was coming out later in the film…..nope. end of rant.

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