“New Things Get Old.”
Masterpiece about the sadness of being married to someone you are not really in love with. Writer-director Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz shattered me in ways that no love story has in many, many years. It is also a reassertion that Michelle Williams is the most incredible acting talent of the new century. Film after film she proves that whether she is a historic figure or common, she taps emotional chords unlike any other. Taking place in Canada, Williams’ heroine Margot is married to an unromantic lug (Seth Rogen, non-sophomoric for once), but enchanted by a rickshaw driver (Luke Kirby) who talks to her in ways that every girl dreams of being talked to.
There is a conversation that takes place during one of their non-dates that elevates to the erotic confession monologue in Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona” (1966). Daniel, the crush, tells her how he would like – in a fantasy environment – kiss the top of her forehead. Then her eyelids. Feel her eyelashes flutter under his lips. Then slowly, lips brushing up… it then goes into a very deep erotic confession, one that out-eroticizes the best of Penthouse Letters. Margot finally agrees to kiss him… but in 35-years from now. She is married, and marriage deserves at least that long before such a faux pas.
It’s only days gone by until Margot can’t stand the idea of waiting that long, even though she brought it up. She lives in a cute little two-story house with husband Lou, the kind with multi-colored faded paint and a few rickety drawers and cabinets. Lou isn’t a complete waste, he has a cook book on the horizon with a publishing house backer. He doesn’t know how to come up with small talk at dinners with her, he jokes around and is rarely sincere. But he does love her.
But being with Lou is like having a brother or a small child, the excitement of love never even found a plateau, it’s more the marriage has the passion of a foot in a loafer shoe. The key thing about Margot is her low self-esteem. She can’t seem to fathom the idea that a good-looker would flatter her. She is a few pounds overweight, enough to lower her self-esteem. She hides behind ironic, jokey conversation. Suddenly, she is liberated to speak sexy with the stranger. She voices concern that she has lost her courage to be sexy with Lou.
“Take This Waltz” has the exactitude of real life and responsibilities converging with the urge of running off. An extraordinary circular shot towards the end brings everything into a new light. As it unfolds the passage of time, it in the most artfully brave way lays bare the euphoria of new love and how it can totally create a new persona from within.
Change is a rare thing in each lifetime, and not many possess the power to transform. Margot undergoes an unforeseen lesson in the power, and pitfalls, of transformation. It’s Michelle Williams at her best goddamit, and she floors you. Polley’s masterful 360 shot has the compositional bravado of Scorsese at his most risky (“Who’s That Knocking at My Door,” “The Age of Innocence”), and the paradoxical use of “Video Killed the Radio Star?” on the soundtrack is elementally haunting – a song Margot clings to because it’s youthful. At heart’s core, few movies are this brilliantly attuned to how internal drives cannot be easily extinguished because desire itself has become overpowering.
106 Minutes. Rated R.
ROMANTIC DRAMA / SEXY IMAGES / MASTERPIECE VIEWING FOR ANYTIME OF YEAR
Film Cousins: “Persona” (1966, Sweden); “The Age of Innocence” (1993); “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999); “In the Mood for Love” (2000, China).
Official movie website: click here.