Blog Directory CineVerse: Dancing delicately between two relationships

Dancing delicately between two relationships

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Michelle Williams has demonstrated that she can command the screen with sheer acting chops. These talents were on full display in Take This Waltz, an offbeat exploration of the classic love triangle film that not only manages to surprise viewers by its conclusion but also showcases Seth Rogen in a more serious role that deviates from the stoner shlub/slob characters he’s been typecast in. Our CineVerse group examine this 2011 romcom/dramedy with fresh eyes and made the following observations (to listen to a recording of our group discussion, click here): 

In what ways is Take This Waltz refreshing, unexpected, or memorable?

  • This story doesn’t rely on the stereotypical characters and situations you’d expect in a love triangle movie. Lou, the husband, isn’t a brute or oaf; Margo is not a sultry nymphomaniac, gold digger, or homewrecker; and Daniel is incredibly patient and respectful of Margo’s hesitancy.
    • In fact, Margot and Lou share a lot of humor in their relationship and know how to comfort one another. Likewise, Margot seems happy and accepted by her in-laws. Collectively, this would seemingly contribute little in the form of conflict within the story.
  • The filmmakers are also quite nonchalant and forthright about showing the female body in a non-sexual way.
    • Austin Chronicle reviewer Kimberley Jones wrote: “There is also a casualness about bodies – I call it European, but this is a Canadian film through and through – that explores without didacticism the range of human physicality, from the functional ho-hum of showering and evacuating waste to the exhilarating extremes of sexual pleasure, and chronicles without comment how the human form ages and changes.”
  • It’s possible that, near the end of the film when we see the montage of Margo being physically intimate with Daniel (and a few others) and assumedly experiencing life to the fullest, this is a fantasy or exaggerated sequence exposing Margo as an unreliable narrator. Consider that we soon see her leaning next to the oven door in virtually the same pose and state of melancholy that she displayed at the beginning of the movie – in a kitchen that looks remarkably similar to the one she shared with Lou.
    • Ask yourself: what is the likelihood that her new kitchen with Daniel is a carbon copy of the one in her previous home with Lou? And isn’t that second kitchen a bit of a downgrade for the trendy, upscale type of home (with its giant, open floor plan) that Daniel and Margo share? This suggests that either we can’t trust the second kitchen scene or we can’t trust the intimacy montage before it – or both.
  • There are some small world implausibilities here. First, what are the odds that Daniel would end up living right across the street from Margo? Second, how believable is it that they seem to run into each other everywhere? Third, considering how often Margo and Daniel intersect, wouldn’t Lou have seen them together a few times earlier or later?

Themes at play and Take This Waltz

  • Newness and novelty eventually wear off, and all honeymoons end sooner or later. The secret to keeping things fresh is to be open, honest, and realistic in your expectations.
  • Life and relationships are not perfect. As sister-in-law Geraldine says: “Life has a gap in it… It just does. You don’t go crazy trying to fill it in like some lunatic.”
  • Beauty is only skin deep. We see many interesting, intelligent, and likable women throughout this film, including many in unflattering full nakedness during the shower scene. We also witness a consistently makeup-free Margo (and Michelle Williams playing her) who the filmmakers aren’t afraid to show in less than glamorous moments, such as wearing the same shirt to bed every night, using the toilet, and undressing to enter the shower in a very non-titillating way. The implication here is clear: Female characters in movies don’t have to be physically attractive, erotic, or feminine to a clich├ęd degree to be worthy of our attention and admiration.

Movies that Take This Waltz bring to mind

  • Brief Encounter
  • Blue Valentine
  • Hope Springs
  • The Story of Us
  • To the Wonder
  • Celeste & Jesse Forever

Other films directed by Sarah Polley

  • Away From Her
  • Stories We Tell

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