A version of this review appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
“Take This Waltz”
A disturbing pattern is developing in the acclaimed career of three-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams, who is making a dubious habit of delivering superlative performances in films that frankly don’t deserve her.
After winning an Academy Award nod for her credible portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in last year’s “My Week with Marilyn,” Williams reverts back to playing a marital malcontent with “Take This Waltz,” actress/filmmaker Sarah Polley’s unsatisfactory follow-up to her heartrending 2006 Alzheimer’s saga “Away from Her.”
Like director/co-writer Derek Cianfrance’s 2010 drama “Blue Valentine,” for which Williams earned her previous Oscar nomination, “Take This Waltz” seeks to reveal truths about marriage, attraction and relationships while never, ever letting you forget that it’s a movie, and more to the point, an Important Independent Film. The contrived storytelling, clunky metaphors and self-consciously writerly dialogue dim the flashes of truthfulness that Williams and co-stars Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman, who bring likeable humor without the overt comedy they’re known for to their dramatic roles, manage to achieve.
Set in Toronto, the film follows Margot (Williams), a comfortably married freelance writer who travels to the Canadian version of Colonial Williamsburg after she is hired to retool the tourist trap’s website and pamphlets. There she finds herself strongly drawn to handsome sightseer Daniel (Luke Kirby), who happens to be seated next to her on the flight home and later conveniently turns out to be her new neighbor, an aspiring artist who makes enough money as a part-time rickshaw operator — I promise I am not making this up, but it sure sounds made up, doesn’t it? — to live in a trendy loft apartment in their bohemian neighborhood.
Just across the street, Margot shares a beautiful faux-shabby house with her good-guy hubby Lou (Rogen), a cookbook author distracted by the looming deadline for his new tome wholly devoted to different ways of preparing chicken. Margot considers Lou’s sister Geraldine (Silverman), a recovering alcoholic, one of her best friends, and she and her husband have an affectionate relationship, punctuated by odd but authentic quirks like couching their “I love yous” in exotic death threats.
But after five years of marriage, Lou and Margot share little emotional intimacy and even less sexual warmth. In the too-bright heat of summer, she becomes increasingly attracted to the sparks that fly whenever she is around Daniel.
Despite a few indelible moments and undeniable insights, “Take This Waltz” stumbles along to its obvious conclusion without ever feeling like it has realized the potential of its cast, filmmaker or story.
Bonus features: Making-of featurette, red carpet interviews and trailer.