203) Take This Waltz (2011) Dir: Sarah Polley Date Released: June 29, 2012 Date Seen: June 30, 2012 Rating: 2/5
By the time its end credits were rolling, I felt like Sarah Polley's sophomore directorial effort had grated on my very last nerve. I like Away From Her, Polley's debut as a filmmaker and a drama that constantly threatened to capsize but thankfully ever did. But in Take This Waltz, all of the wrong-headed dramaturgical impulses that Polley indulged in in that earlier film are accentuated. She smothers her characters by making every fucking scene revolve around a talking point. No scene can simply be about what it's about, it has to be about what the characters signify, why their actions matter, and what Polley likes about them. Polley's trying so hard here that if you squint, you can see an authorial hand pinching the protagonists' cheeks.
Scenes like the one where Polley takes time to show us Michelle Williams's swinging knees as she licks her fingers when she makes blueberry muffins? Scenes like that suck, and they suck hard because it's distracting to see a sympathetic character become a model of behavior rather than an individual protagonist. I get it: Williams's character has to grapple with decisions that Polley has great sympathy for. And I also sympathize greatly with any young person that's unsure of whether or not they should take similar strides towards doing what is best for them, even if it means hurting someone they love. It's in one's nature to be selfish and being selfish is not always bad. WOOO, GO INDIVIDUALISM, RA RA RA. Feh.
Look, I like this film's message. I like it! I really do, ok? But as a drama, this film's the pits. The characters are unbelievably flat after a point because they're only as complex as Polley's shrill dialogue suggests. Just look at that stupid scene where Williams balks to Seth Rogen's character that he's always baking chicken. Ooh, lookit that awkward silence! NNNNN.
Or how about the scene where an old woman gently reminds Williams, the very sexy Sarah Silverman and some other young thing that, "New things get old," or something equally trite but true? I mean come on, next we're going to be applauding Yogi Bera as a great 20th century philosopher! No. Just: no.