At the start of Take This Waltz Margot and Daniel meet cute, in circumstances just odd enough to be memorable. They then chat cute, take a cab cute and just as you, as a viewer, are ready to settle into a sweet, if maybe predictable romantic comedy of the indiest variety (after all, SHE is wearing a shirt that says “freeloader” and has swoopy bangs and IS played by Michelle Williams.) SHE looks at him, blurts out “I am married” and runs into her quaint, adorable house she shares with her adorable bear of a husband. Daniel (not the husband) gets out of the cab, too, walks over across the street and says, “That’s a shame. Because I live….here”.
And so Sarah Polley‘s gentle, sad-happy, in-between things new movie starts. And even if you think you know how it ends (and you probably do), and how it may get there (you probably do) in the summer sea of explosions, superhero reboots and male strippers, it is the equivalent of a perfectly crafted summer cocktail in a bar you’ve been wishing to discover: a place that is not too loud, not too flashy, not too anything. It is just right for a lazy afternoon of lingering about.
The title, as you probably noticed comes from a Leonard Cohen song (his music is strewn about, including an effervescent cover of “Closing Time” by Feist, there to shake things up a little during a crucial scene) and much like some of Mr. Cohen’s finest work, it is a poetic, slow burn.
Margot is decent and shy, but determined and curious at the same time. She loves her husband, it is obvious, but is also unable to ignore this new man she never noticed before. Luke Kirby plays Daniel as the sort of guy who is not going to push himself onto his pretty, married neighbor, yet will never fully get himself out of the picture, never quite bow out. And Seth Rogen‘s Lou, Margot’s cookbook writing husband, is both affectionate and skirmish, loving and pragmatic at the same time. They are 28 and they’ve been married for 5 years, what was once new is now old, and dealing with it is something neither of them thought they’d ever have to do back when they were young and so in love they got married, just like that.
Polley (whom most of us remember as a wonderful actress from movies like “The Sweet Hereafter” and “Guinevere” as well as more action pact “Dawn of The Dead” and “Splice”) is a fine director of actors. She understands character, the importance of context and how, if filmed viewed from the right angle, the smallest flick of hair or the way a hand is being held in another’s hand, can say a million things. This is not the kind of filmmaking that appeals to everyone - I could see detractors saying it’s to too subtle or a little too precious – but those who are on board will be moved by the culmination of many perfect, small moments.
Her only flaw in making this bittersweet song of a movie, is that towards the end she stretches it just a little too long to be comfortable. Then again, maybe that was the goal: showing you the ending past the obvious movie ending, showing you that life is not all glowing go-cart rides and adventures, even with those you think it would be just like that, always. New always becomes a little old, as a wise person mentions mid-way. Never lose sight of that.