Left to Right: Lou (Seth Rogen) and Margot (Michelle Williams). Photo by Michael Gibson. Courtesy of Mongrel Media.
The best films to play London play the Hyland Cinema . . . and Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz is the latest for JBNBlog. After the brilliant Away From Her, when she had the trifecta of Alice Munro (Polley’s adaptation of a Munro story), Julie Christie & Gordon Pinsent going for her, Polley is back with an ace cast led by the great Michelle Williams to go with her own script.
There is a strong New Wave illogic & descent into a Torontomidsummer mad seductive dream as Williams (Margot) journeys from the touristy trap of Louisbourg (!) to marriage breakdown complete with Leonard Cohen, Feist & the Buggles (New Wave, too!!) on the soundtrack.
There is a scene when Williams runs like Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel down to the beach (or the Beaches). No freeze frame ending. She winds up seated/folded up in a pose reversing the Ken Danby cover image of Who Do You Think You Are? Erotica follows. Eventually.
Take This Waltz is Polley plus Renoir (for Margot’s marvellous outfits) plus Truffaut plus Munro plus Torontolove plus a couple who go out to Mon Oncle Antoine (!!!!) on their “about” fifth anniversary at whatever Toronto has that is trying to be the Hyland & then he won’t talk to her over dinner because he figures he knows it all by now. Sigh.
Margot and her husband, Lou (an admirably dense Seth Rogen), play many a sadistic word/infantile game . . . & Rogen often rejects her advances, the better to concentrate on the chicken recipes this cookbook genius is creating. You may want to shout at the screen: “Turn around you fool . . . you are turning your back on & (literally!!!) tossing cold water on Michelle Williams. Get it together, man.”
Or maybe that’s just a cliche male view . . . the agreeable large-for-the-Hyland audience seemed to identify with Margot and her lust object (Luke Kirby) & their long dance to madsex in a nicely appointed loft. Or maybe that’s just me.
JBNBlog cheered when Telefilm Canada & the ever reliable Mongrel Media names showed up in the credits. Bravo.
Also renewed my Hyland membership for another year when we saw Take This Waltz on Thursday. The hits just keep on coming.
Here is fine background courtesy of Mongrel Media:
When Margot (Michelle Williams), 28, meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), their chemistry is intense and
immediate. But Margot suppresses her sudden attraction; she is happily married to Lou (Seth
Rogen), a cookbook writer. When Margot learns that Daniel lives across the street from them,
the certainty about her domestic life shatters. She and Daniel steal moments throughout the
steaming Toronto summer, their eroticism heightened by their restraint. Swelteringly hot, bright
and colorful like a bowl of fruit, TAKE THIS WALTZ leads us, laughing, through the familiar, but
uncharted question of what long‐term relationships do to love, sex, and our images of ourselves.
* * *
Take This Waltz stars Oscar and BAFTA‐nominee Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine, Shutter
Island, Wendy & Lucy, Brokeback Mountain), Luke Kirby (The Samaritan, Tell Me You Love Me,
Labor Pains, Mambo Italiano), Seth Rogen (Green Hornet, Superbad, Knocked Up), and Emmy‐
nominated Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silverman Program).
Take This Waltz is written and directed by Academy Award nominee, Sarah Polley (Oscar
nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay for Away From Her), and is produced by Accent
Entertainment’s Susan Cavan (Kids in the Hall, Citizen Duane) and Sarah Polley. Filming took
place in Toronto and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia from July 12‐August 31, 2010.
Seth Rogen, whose movie relationships have typically been about either meeting or breaking up
with a girl, found the ‘happily married’ relationship completely novel. “It was really interesting
pretending to be married to someone all day. It’s amazing how easy it is when you’re allowed to
be comfortable with yourself when the cameras are rolling ‐ and how awkward it becomes the
second they stop rolling. But Michelle made it as easy as it could be, and she’s just 100% real at
all times. Because it feels kind of real at times and Michelle’s so nice, it just sucks to have to
even pretend to not get along with her.”
Prior to Take This Waltz, Michelle has what some would call an interesting, albeit imaginary
relationship with Sarah Polley. “This has really has been sort of a dream come true. I told Sarah
“You know what I do sometimes before I act, before I met you? I do WWSPD: What Would
Sarah Polley Do?” You know when you’re on take #10 of a scene and you still haven’t found your
way in, nothing’s clicking, and you’re calling upon the gods for some sort of help? One of my
pull‐it‐out‐the‐bag things is, ‘How would Sarah Polley do this scene? What would she do?’”
Even from afar, the respect was reciprocated. Polley assessed the talent of Michelle Williams
succinctly, “I think Michelle is the greatest actor of her generation and that’s not a superlative.
What I learned from working with her is the difference between good actors and great actors:
great actors don’t just surprise their directors or their audience ‐ they surprise themselves.
Something about their character blindsides them in the middle of a take and their performance
spins off a bit in an incredible, unforeseen direction.” So transcendent was Williams’
performance that Polley was better able to understand the character she created, and, as a
result, was able to allow Margot to travel further in her emotional journey. “Michelle has such
wisdom about her, such poetry about her, it was hard to keep a character in the same place if it
is Michelle who is playing her.”
The title of the film, Take This Waltz, comes from the Leonard Cohen song of the same name,
the words of which Cohen interpreted from “Little Viennese Waltz” by the modernist poet,
Frederico Garcia Lorca, who was assassinated in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.
Now in Vienna there’s ten pretty women. There’s a shoulder where
Death comes to cry. There’s a lobby with nine hundred windows.
There’s a tree where the doves go to die.
“The lyrics are so tragic and romantic,” declared Polley. “You never completely understand it,
but it makes perfect sense on some deep, emotional level. I listened to it non‐stop while writing
the screenplay and it informed the tone of what I wanted to accomplish.