WHAT do you think attracted Michelle Williams to this film about the temptation of infidelity?
Take This Waltz (15)
Director: Sarah Polley
Running time: 116 minutes
In Brokeback Mountain, her husband preferred Jake Gyllenhaal, in My Week With Marilyn Arthur Miller had rapidly become disillusioned with her sex bomb Monroe, and in Blue Valentine she had the weight of an underachieving husband crushing her soul. Compared to the usual Williams’ choices, Take This Waltz is practically a romcom. It even has Judd Apatow favourite Seth Rogen as her screen husband Lou, a cookery writer who is so happy with routine that his latest book involves testing out recipes every night based solely on chicken.
After five years of marriage, their relationship is affectionate rather than passionate: as Williams’ Margot says, Lou is a really good cook, if you like chicken. He’s certainly not as exciting as neighbour Daniel (Luke Kirby), who has a James Dean smoulder and looks at Williams the way a fox would look at a nice plump pullet.
Take This Waltz was written and directed by Canadian actress Sarah Polley, whose directorial debut was 2006’s Away From Her, where illness exposed the fissures of a long-term marriage. “People want to be in love every single day,” sighed Julie Christie while reviewing the glue of relationships in that movie. “What a liability.”
Take This Waltz picks this ball up and runs with it, examining our annoying habit of being attracted to new sexual flirtation. When Daniel circles Margot and ratchets up the sexual tension, it’s almost literally romantic intoxication. Over martinis in a café he tells her, in great detail, what he’d like to do to her and the scene packs such an erotic kick, they leave their drinks untouched.
Polley draws out some fine performances from her cast and Rogen has never been less irritating. But she also has a nice eye for nuanced images; a shower after an aqua aerobics class shows naked women of all ages and shapes, yet unguarded and relaxed without blokes to cause sexual tension, and a funfair ride to the tune of Video Killed The Radio Star provides a nicely wigged-out metaphor for the teasing, tantalising thrill of surrendering to an emotional whirl.
She’s also smart about the comforts of familiar relationships. Margot and Lou share bantering in-jokes, such as lying in bed, conjuring up verbal bouquets for each other of elaborate awfulness (“I love you so much I want to scoop out your eyes with a melon baller”). It’s a bubble world, and not a very mature one, whereas Daniel seems to offer the opportunity for Margot to graduate to something more intense, adult and dangerous.
Some of Polley’s devices are a little self-conscious. Characters get shut off from each other by windows that reflect just how isolated they are, despite apparent transparency, and Polley is too generous in allowing her characters to make unnecessary announcements; right at the start Margot tells Daniel that she is fearful of connections. She’s supposed to be talking about catching planes, but we all know what’s really in the air at that moment.
Yet Take This Waltz has the sting of real life about it, and thinking about it afterwards feels like thinking about people you know. Weeks after seeing this film, it still haunts me; and not just because I really hate the Buggles. «
On general release from Friday
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