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Sarah Polley’s “Take This Waltz” the first misfire of TIFF 2011

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: People sit in movie theaters all of the time, watching the same movie but seeing a different film.

Moments after Sarah Polley’s “Take This Waltz” screened for press and industry members at the Toronto International Film Festival, Twitter exploded with praise, the likes of which we haven’t seen since “The Raid” earlier in the fest. One critic who’s opinion I respect said it would make his Top 10 list of whatever year it comes out. Another colleague I spoke to talked about the ways Polley’s film moved him.

Yet, I hated the film. Virtually from the first few minutes, which presents such an incredible coincidence that to remove it would prevent the film from continuing. Oh, how I wish the film didn’t continue.

Michelle Williams cloaks herself in phony bohemianism to play Margot, a sometimes writer and wife of a cookbook author (Seth Rogen) who meets and falls for Daniel (Luke Kirby), the dark, sensual rickshaw driver she meets while out of town on a business trip. But this isn’t a long-distance affair. On the flight home, Daniel has the seat next to Margot. They share a cab, only to reveal that Daniel lives across the street. Bad screenwriting of that ilk follows.

Polley wants to, and occasionally does, set a heartbreaking mood as Margot fluctuates between what the heart wants and what her marriage deserves. But I couldn’t connect with “Waltz” because I found the Margot character to be detestable, and Polley’s tendency to lean on Young Adult, harlequin expressions of squeamish “passion” rang false. “You are infinitely hateable,” Margot says to Daniel, though she doesn’t believe in the statement.

I believed in the statement.

“Take This Waltz” does not have the maturity and composure of Polley’s first film, “Away From Her.” It lacks the depth of human understanding that helped that film resonate. Where others are seeing poetry and pain (perhaps due to feelings they bring to the table), I saw immaturity and idiocy (perhaps because of what I might bring to the table). I also saw the first misfire of this year’s TIFF.

On to the next film.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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  • September 11, 2011 | Permalink |

    Last year we finished TIFF with “Last Night” a poorly done, anti-romance about betrayal and infidelity. This year we started with “Take This Waltz”, apparently Sarah Polley’s tribute to last year’s “Last Night”. Both are insults to philandery. Sarah Polley has developed a bit of reputation for being an upstart and edgy; this picture, think upchuck and edging on ridiculous. A boring husband (Seth Rogan), an innocent child-like wife and an irresistible rickshaw driver cum cad & stalker who can afford an apartment and regular trips to Cape Breton (at Air Canada rates only affordable by government bureaucrats). Please. Sarah Silverman offered promise on the big screen but sadly, her characterization of a recovering alcoholic was so shallow that, at the end, she couldn’t even play a drunk. But it’s not her fault. There are two reasons why this film fails so badly. One is story; there is almost none. The second is direction; there’s no evidence of the cast being driven to play their roles well. I have to think that Polley is the beneficiary of a desire by the Canadian film industry to build a star system in behind the camera. I doubt that this film would have been financed, made and screened at TIFF without a little insider trading of sorts. WARNING – there are several explicit sex scenes near the end that appear out of nowhere and are no better acted or more interesting than the rest of the picture.

  • September 12, 2011 | Permalink |

    Sadly I agree with this review. I didn’t buy one second of this film. The writing was particularly egregious. Sarah Polley is a decent actor but this was just plain gruesome in how fake and flabby and self-obsessed it seemed.

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