If any of these put you off: Take This Waltz, Relationships, Indie. Stick with it as you may find this film a pleasant surprise.If you enjoyed Lost in Translation this may be a film you’ll enjoy as well.
Written and directed by Sarah Polley, best known for staring in Splice recently and who first came to my attention in the excellent Go. Staring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby with Sarah Silverman makes for quite an interesting cast. Listed as being released in 2011 this appears to be one of those films that had a very limited release and now is getting a second go or finally a worldwide release.
The overview on IMDB is “A happily married woman falls for the artist who lives across the street.” Like a single line describing any film about human relationships it’s rather simplistic but distantly correct. I would like to add to it: “who offers the tantalising offer of something new and different.”
Margot (Williams) and Lou (Rogan) have been married for almost 5 years. On a work trip to write new material for a travel destination, Margot has an awkward and brief meeting with Daniel (Kirby). As happenstance (or writing) would have it, this meeting continues and changes from awkward to awkward flirtation and then just flirtation, on their journey home.
The relationship between Margot and Lou is both believable and indie. Indie usually equates to quirky (Zooey Deschanel being something of a poster girl) but in this case the “quirky” is at a tolerable level. Margot does use the oft annoying “baby-talk” and the couple play a disturbing game whereby they compete on how much they love each other with a torturous act they would like to perform on the other. This is used in subtle ways to describe the changes in the relationship as the film and their relationship evolves so, not just quirk for quirk’s sake.
The main focus of the film is Margot and I would say, at the heart of the Margot character is the need for change. An innate want or need for something more, new or different. Happiness only ever being a short stop on the way to other, more continuous states of being. She wants that feeling of elation that comes with something new. It seems to be more pronounced in woman than men but universally understandable. If humans were easily pleased, we’d still be in caves. She is far from being pensive and introspective though, mostly when she is with Daniel, she has an almost childlike exuberance for life that is quite infectious.
Lou, played much more understated than is usual for Rogan (or reigned in by Polly), is writing a cook book of only chicken recipes. Thankfully not a vegan cook book or that word “indie” would have been looming large. This book and, trying different recipes for it, is his main focus, being content in the relationship his focus lies elsewhere. By no means is Lou a polarised character, you can both understand his actions and also why Margot is enticed by a relationship with Daniel.
Daniel is an artist who operates a pulled rickshaw to pay the rent. And if that isn’t indie enough for you, he likes to go to the beach before starting work to mull life’s quandaries. He is both charming and aloof, more of an idea than a man until the end.
Silverman plays Geraldine the sister of Lou and recovering alcoholic. Apart from one scene, like Rogan, she plays a more understated character than you may expect. It is my belief that the main purpose of the character is as a grosser example of Margot. That emptiness that is there, somewhere in all of us. She even says “Life has a gap in it… It just does. You don’t go crazy trying to fill it.” She is the lesson that Margot chooses to ignore.
There are a great many astute observations of the human condition. One of my favourites is a very awkward watch until the end where the awkwardness is almost a point. Daniel describes what he’d like to do to Margot, in as an arousing manner as he can manage. It brings to mind the absurdity of sex. Its oxymoronic nature, being both serious (a matter of life and death in fact) and comically silly. I’m sure we’ve all been amused by a nature program when they show two animals copulating and uncomfortable when watching the same with parents. There is also a great truism told more directly in a shower scene. Oh, may be I should have opened with Michelle Williams and Sarah Silverman are naked in this film?
You may find yourself liking this film even if you are put off by the short description on IMDB. I’m guessing the readership (if any) of this blog post will mostly be men. You may even earn some brownie points if you have a female other, by recommending watching this film. You never know 😉
4/5 (Indie isn’t always a bad word)