The amazing thing about Canadian actress Sarah Polley’s sophomore film, Take This Waltz, is we identify with its main character, a terrific Michelle Williams, when we could just as easily have been repulsed by her.
“Life has a gap in it… You don’t go crazy trying to fill it, like some lunatic,” says Williams’ sister-in-law, Sarah Silverman. Silverman’s advice falls on deaf ears. Williams faces the plight of a contented gone complacent marriage threatened with the emergence of a third party. Though she’s careful and deliberate at first, Williams breaks stride with cookbook author Seth Rogen despite their cooing babytalk and comfortable insults produced from years of trustworthy, easy camaraderie. In the end, Williams’ faith in the contented marriage and subsequent intoxicating infatuation achieve a parity that flattens into a similar unfulfillment. The moral sure seems to be to change yourself from within before looking outside yourself.
Inventiveness here outweighs artifice, but not by a whole lot. On the one hand, a nonverbal funhouse ride scene screeches with meaning and resonance. On the other, a taken aback Williams, upon meeting her new beau, a rickshaw-bearing free spirit, Luke Kirby, announces she’s “afraid of being afraid.” A surprisingly expressive Rogen, upon learning of Williams’ extracurricular stuff, is given an uninterrupted, solo, jump-cut focus. Later, an is-it-real/or-is-it fantasy elongated sex scene includes group sex that doesn’t add up, exposition-wise. It seems self-indulgent. Fresh on the heels of her excellent first film, Away from Her, Polley here ups the ante in the risk-taking department. Though not all pays off, it’s refreshing to see a young director break such ground. Her ability to bring to life the little things that occur in relationships is astounding.
Now to Williams. Wendy and Lucy. Blue Valentine. My Week With Marilyn. Meek’s Cutoff. Now, Take This Waltz. She’s probably our finest film actress these days, period. And her expressive nuances are the major reason we hang with her character here in all her indecisiveness. Some have questioned use of the throwaway 80s Buggles hit,‘“Video KIlled The Radio Star” in the film. It underlines the aforementioned funhouse ride scene and is later reprised. It’s simultaneously about the archaic and the new. Taken in conjunction with a moving scene in which Williams and Silverman shower nude with female members of an older generation, it all makes sense. The older women comment on Silverman’s “gap” statement with, essentially, a shrugging “everything new gets old.” Deal with it, Polley is pleading.
3.5 Everything New Gets Old Blues Riffs (out of 5)