Paul Giamatti stars as a struggling lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach who takes in his client's troubled grandson
Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby star in a witty but deceptively brutal exploration of an unfolding love triangle
When married twenty-something web copywriter Margot (Michelle Williams) meets rickshaw driver and struggling creative Daniel (Luke Kirby) on a work trip, it's pretty obvious there is chemistry between them, the kind of chemistry that might be enjoyed pretty innocently on an excursion from home where you thought there was no chance of seeing that person again. Unfortunately, it turns out that they live on the same street.
The whole thing about love triangles is that one person is genuinely interested in two people simultaneously, a point too often missed in more glib explorations of the problem where it's normally all too obvious which path should be taken. In Take This Waltz, we're invited to stare unblinkingly as three people's emotional innards are exposed and dissected, though not without a lightness of touch enabling plenty of laughs amidst the psychological trauma.
The key to Take This Waltz is that the comic elements are never at war with the character development, as writer-director Sarah Polley and her fine cast take care to develop a narrative that neither makes excuses nor condemns the characters' choices, steering clear of both special pleading and easy moralising. The marriage which is sufficiently cosy that William's character has begun to restlessly succumb to fresh temptations is not portrayed as a stultifying Bovaryesque slog. Nor is the prospective affair represented as a dangerous amour fou with a Heathcliff-style one true love. Everyone involved is recognisably human, flawed, and by turns likeable and frustrating. The characters are able to make jokes without turning the film into a comedy, and suffer without turning the film into a tragedy.
If you disliked the film, it would be an easy route to take issue with the lifestyles of the people involved, as if there are no lifestyles like this, but would also betray a troubling lack of imagination. It's a pretty class-and-age specific milieu, of course, but in an era where too much choice is a problem for many in forming long-term relationships, Take This Waltz is not only valid, but timely, and - for some viewers - will register as painfully on-the-nose.
This is finely-judged filmmaking from a writing and directing talent to watch. That Sarah Polley once starred in Zack Snyder's Dawn Of The Dead and has gone on to make films like this only makes her that bit more likeable.
Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini and Noomi Rapace star in a feature-length adaptation of a short crime story by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Shutter Island), directed by Belgian filmmaker Michael R. Roskam (Bullhead)
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