DIRECTED BY SARAH POLLEY
STARRING: MICHELLE WILLIAMS, SETH ROGEN, LUKE KIRBY and SARAH SILVERMAN
‘Take this Waltz’ is a film that promises but one character of remarkable authenticity only to cheat us in the end by reducing that person, that character, to a cameo. In its defence, there have been films that have been more hostile towards their audiences. ‘Addicted to Love’, for instance – that piece of sadism which beat one of its characters to pulp simply for being more mature than the rest. The French might have had to think a million times for a while before they headed out west after that film, post the rush that ‘Green Card’ might have generated, what with an Andie MacDowell waiting for every Depardieu in line. Of course, I mean that figuratively.
Geraldine (Sarah Silverman) is that woman. Margot (Michelle Williams) is who she isn’t. One talks about dealing with dissatisfaction in a relationship, the other goes through the same. Geraldine is married to Aaron Rubin (Aaron Abrams) while Margot is married to his younger brother Lou (Seth Rogen, deflated). Geraldine has been married for about a year, Margot’s been married for two. From what we see, they have come a long way since.
Well, Geraldine not much, actually. Her case might be jitters – what she thinks is concern could be called ‘paranoia.’ Margot, in fact, labels it so and it’s perhaps in the fact that she thinks her situation trumps Geraldine’s little problem. Geraldine calls for attention, Margot worries about the fact that she’s running out of love to give. By that, I mean she has lost the spark in the relationship that I find I can argue into being. Margot looks to be the kind of woman who would role-play in reciprocation to the attention she gets. She’s a perpetual Maggie Carpenter without a Gere-shift in place. Lou treats her to a splash of cold water every day as she showers with her eyes closed. She tells him they’ve got to call a plumber. It’s a Rickshaw-puller who, however, comes to fix the situation.
The whole film revolves around Margot and her trials and tribulations, so let me take time off to talk about Lou for a while. First and foremost – and this is crucial – he is played by Seth Rogen. The humblest I’ve seen of him was as Ira Wright the struggling comic in ‘Funny People,’ where he rejects a girl for having broken rule number one. There’s perhaps a strand that separates Rogen from Ira Wright; Judd Apatow would know. Explosive or not, Rogen is confrontational. You throw a punch at him, he’d throw the F-word in return as he asks you why. Lou, in that way, is a plain-clothed version of Rogenality, and yet has the honesty the actor has always armed his characters with.
So there’s humility on the one hand, there’s meekness on the other. And I don’t think it’s right to let a coin decide, let alone an antithetical script.
If anything, it is the template performance of Williams’ that has me bring both films up in the same context. ‘Blue Valentine’ came to mind too often. Both films, of course, have her in the middle, in a similar (if not the same) kind of mess. In both Dean Pereira (Ryan Gosling) and Lou Rubin, we have men who have but a very slight hunch on what could have gone wrong. And there’s only so much that we know they can do about it. Like Daniel (Luke Kirby), the Rickshaw-puller-artist-sexy-beast, points out, all he (Lou) does is cook Chicken. (I haven’t mentioned it already, but Lou is an author of a popular line of Chicken recipes) And then he asks her if she likes Chicken. The answer is obvious.
‘Take this Waltz’, thus, is overstatement of a point that has been made so often it’s a smudge on a wall with dozens of prints on it. The characters are stereotypes who explain themselves as well – I sadly thought of talking Teletubbies. The film not only borrows its title from the Cohen/Lorca song, but also plays it on top of a montage that shows Daniel giving Margot what he so blatantly promises her in the beginning, a time when Lou didn’t want to gouge her eyeballs out. We have about a hundred minutes of runtime on a twenty-minute script – with the star value and the effort that appears to have gone into each performance, we could have had a half-decent short film that promoted tourism in Canada, given how passionate as romantics their Rickshaw-pullers are.
I haven’t watched ‘Away from Her’ yet, so where Sarah Polley is concerned, I cannot judge. But I’d still like her to know that in a “Grass is Greener on the other side” concept as this, she can’t cast Seth Rogen as a house-cat husband, how much ever of a fabulous job he might do. Unless the grass in question, of course, has certain narcotic properties, in which case he’d be the perfect fit.