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'Take This Waltz' review: Michelle Williams strays from Seth Rogen

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Released on Friday, Aug 17 2012


It takes two to tango and, presumably, three to waltz in this daring romantic drama starring the ever soulful Michelle Williams. As our heroine Margot, she is pulled in opposite directions by Seth Rogen - playing her doting husband Lou - and their alluring neighbour Daniel (Luke Kirby).

An awkward atmosphere soon develops, but a shifty approach behind the camera contributes to this as much as the tug-of-love happening onscreen. Margot is an emotionally gritty role for Williams and she plays it brilliantly close to the edge, but she can seem at odds with a scenario that has more in common with a Mills & Boon fantasy than the real world.

Take the initial meeting of Margot and her dream lover Daniel: They bump into each other on the tourist trail in Nova Scotia, then find themselves seated together on the plane back to Toronto, flirting all the way and subsequently sharing a cab that takes them, serendipitously, back to the same street. At which point, Margot explains that they cannot see each other again.

'Take This Waltz' trailer still
This could be the pitch for a Hollywood rom-com, but apart from the absurd plotting and some light banter, writer-director Sarah Polley isn't so interested in the funny side of the story. Her approach is different, fresh and exciting, though not quite as well-balanced as her stunning 2006 film Away From Her (another unusual tale of romance).

Williams is pushed very close to insufferable as she vacillates between loyalty and infidelity, but for a while it's gripping because the choice isn't obvious. Her marriage is still in its honeymoon phase, her only qualm being that Lou is obsessed with chicken. He writes cookery books, but Daniel is even more the bohemian, showing Margot his artwork and a come hither look à la James Dean.

Ostensibly, Daniel is in love with Margot, but he comes across more as a thrill-seeker and, at worst, a cardboard fantasy figure who may as well have been conjured in Margot's head. She's a writer, so her imagination could be running away with her, but Polley gets carried away too. She doesn't dignify either of the male characters with anything more than ideal qualities.

A slightly ethereal, candy-coloured vision of Toronto suggests that the dreamlike aspects of the story are intentional, but it means Williams is limited in how far she can explore Margot's complex. She's an immature character who always wants more - or something else - but because she isn't presented with the reality of what that 'something else' is, the film loses its grip.

Comedienne Sarah Silverman is on wet blanket duty as Margot's sister-in-law, a recovering addict who counts on her support. She mirrors the guilt that Margot feels, but again the portrayal is larger than life. Meanwhile, the tension at home builds gradually, because Lou is slow on the uptake. The finale is long and drawn-out as well, but it's still worth sticking through the rough parts, because at the end of it all, it's rare to see a woman on screen who is this difficult to pin down.

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