Film Review: Take This Waltz

Well-acted and directed Canadian drama about obsession, fragility of marriage and the mystery of true love is more memorable for its fresh evocation of sunny north-of-the-border locations than for any fresh insights into romance, commitment and solitud

Canadian actor and filmmaker Sarah Polley (the wonderful Away From Her) milks her native country for behind-the-camera talent and, in the case of co-stars Luke Kirby and Seth Rogen, a splash of acting talent. They are joined by familiar Yank favs Michelle Williams and Sarah Silverman in this story of young Toronto urbanites confronting the familiar issues of marital unrest, runaway hormones and addiction problems. Performances, that “fruit bowl” look (as it’s touted in press notes) and savvy use of close-ups make the film engaging, but slim story and murky resolution disappoint.

Torontonian protags Margot (Williams), a married underachieving writer, and struggling artist/rickshaw hauler Daniel (Kirby) don’t meet-cute but meet ultra-convenient several times. Their first encounter is at a Cape Breton fort where Margot, assigned to write a brochure, visits a historic re-enactment for the tourist crowd and Daniel is one such tourist. They meet again on the plane back to Toronto where they are seated side by side, then realize they live within spitting distance of each other across the same street.

There’s obvious chemistry between the two with most heat flowing from Daniel. Margot, he quickly learns, is in a five-year marriage with mellow, joke-loving cookbook writer Lou (Rogen, stretching laterally to teddy-bear sweet à la Jason Segel). Lou isn’t the sharpest knife in the chef’s arsenal. His specialty on the page and in the kitchen is chicken.

Daniel is dogged regarding his seduction designs and Margot, clearly tiring of Lou but decent enough not to hurt him, resists her neighbor’s come-ons. The will-she won’t-she provides the film’s tension.

At first, nothing naughty happens (in spite of Daniel’s talk dirty ploy) but the two begin spending time together. Also entering this picture (although rather gratuitously) is Geraldine (Silverman, who, like Rogen, also leaves her comic orbit to explore a dramatic galaxy). She’s Lou’s sister who has been battling alcoholism and enjoying sobriety.

The film takes an awkwardly abrupt turn when Daniel, although on a rickshaw hauler’s income, suddenly leaves the middle-class neighborhood and moves into a massive loft. In a montage episode that initially strikes as pure fantasy, he and Margot engage in wild sex with each other and a variety of others in this dreamy space through which time appears to travel.

Take This Waltz, whose title comes from a poetic but arcane Leonard Cohen song of the same name, also flirts with issues of denial, lust and solitude. But its clearest message is old news: Relationships are a lot more difficult than cooking up a nice chicken.