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Tyler

Take This Waltz (2011)

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Starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby (who was on the Canadian Shakespeare series Slings & Arrows), and Sarah Silverman.

In the film, Williams is married to Rogen, but is tempted to cheat on him with Kirby after they meet on a plane and then figure out they're neighbors. Also, Kirby has a rickshaw for some reason. It's the kind of plot I usually stay away from, but I like Sarah Polley (she directed Away from Her and has starred in a number of good movies) and Williams a lot, so I'm inclined to give it a chance. After seeing Rogen in 50/50, I think he can pull off a more demanding role like this one, too.

The only other mention of the film on the board I could find was this from PTC in the Most Anticipated Films of 2012 thread:
 

Take This Waltz is okay but kind of goes off the rails in the last 10-15 minutes.

 


It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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For me, this film comes very, very close to greatness. It's streaming on Netflix. I highly recommend that folks check this out before list-making.

Take This Waltz would make an interesting double feature with The Deep Blue Sea.

Sarah Polley has created a complex and convincing marriage: more specifically, a detailed portrait of what many married couples are experiencing at the five-year mark. They're still deeply fond of each other. But the husband, Lou, is finding fulfillment in a combination of work and relationship, with work winning out. The wife, Margot, is still craving fulfillment from the adoration of her husband. As his passion for her diminishes into a sort of chummy fondness, her appetite for intimacy and adventure and passion increase, setting the stage for disaster.

The problem with this movie isn't that it turns cynical on the subject of marriage. It doesn't.

Vaguely spoiler-ish note:

I'm thrilled with where the movie takes us in its exploration of fidelity, temptation, failure, and consequences. It has a strong moral vision, even as it is painfully honest about the thrills of infidelity and the failures that lead to such missteps.

No, the problem is "the other man" - Daniel - who disrupts Margot's life by appealing to her fantasies and offering to be what her husband is not. Daniel is, alas, a fantasy figure. He seems to have stepped out of the pages of a cheap erotic novel written for housewives. If I had believed in this character, this movie might have become my favorite depiction of infidelity. But Daniel is so amusingly defined by a frustrated wife's fantasies, and impossibly unattached to anyone or anything in his life, that I kept waiting for him to evaporate as a dream or a hallucination. He looks like the kind of guy who might suddenly pull a cold beer from a cooler, press it against his face, and reveal that what you've been watching all along is a commercial for Coors.

Too bad, because the cinematography, the score, the editing, and Williams and Rogen... everything else is working beautifully here. Polley has tremendous talent.

Another vaguely spoilerish note:

It ends truthfully, which was, for me, a tremendous relief. Right up to the end, I found myself thinking, "I'm either going to love this film, or hate it so much that I'll be in danger of publishing something I later regret."

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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A very sad state of affairs (heh no pun intended) when we view the ending as realistic.

Edited by Justin Hanvey

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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Yeah, but it really is true.

I've watched several marriages end because when the going got tough, one of them followed their hormones and fantasies into an affair that seemed like a better way. And in the end, the one left behind was broken, and the one who left became broken further when the dream turned out to be just as difficult.

There is a moment during what appears to be a happily-ever-after montage near the end that was as shocking to me as anything I've seen all year. At first, I thought, "Wait... did I really just see that? Was that supposed to be part of a happy, romantic montage?" Then I realized that Polley was making her brave turn right there. That was the moment the whole movie had been leading us toward... a moment when a dream becomes unstainable without inviting an even more desperate choice, and then another, and then... ultimately... the montage becomes surreal and unsustainable.

Actually, reliving that moment in memory, I'm finding that I'm more grateful for this film than I'd thought.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I confess I did not make it this long. The late round of Williams' fulfilled fantasy was something I decided not to sit through. I agree that Daniel was... one dimensional. Which was not something I expected to see in a Polley film. Your reading of Rogen's character is spot on, though. In the Freaks and Geeks oral history, someone mentions that every time they see these actors in a new role, they just pretend that this is an expansion of those original characters. I do the same exact thing, and it is actually very rewarding.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Sigh... I don't. Given that it is netflix, I can click resume. For some reason, I gave up on this one even though I was completely lulled by Attenberg. Thanks for the extra push here, as Polley is one of my favorite filmmakers.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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I'd watch the whole thing, the ending alone, as bleak as I took it, is reason to finish it. It reminds me of A History of Violence's ending, or more overt Sinister's end. The wages of sin.


"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

Justin's Blog twitter Facebook Life Is Story

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So... you don't know how it ends?

Ah. Oh. So... wow. Polley almost reduplicates the end of Beau travail. I am a bit gutted by this film. I think I shut everything down the first time around because I knew this is where it was going and I have spent the last few years in my church living with people through the consequences of this... bull%$#*? is that the right word? It isn't. That only makes these kinds of stories more marketable. I am going to go see if I still have my Secret Lives of Dentists screener and watch it.

Also... this is the most recent Rohmer film I have seen.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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M. Leary said:

:I think there is a great deal to say about Sarah Polley.

In that light. Here's a late night CBC interview with Sarah that I happened to catch the other week.

Edited by Attica

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M. Leary wrote:

: The late round of Williams' fulfilled fantasy was something I decided not to sit through.

Are you referring to the circular-camera-movement sex-scene montage? That's what I was mainly thinking of above when I said the film "went off the rails in the last 10-15 minutes". I just didn't get the sense, anywhere in the preceding hour and a half, that the Williams character wanted to have *that* much excitement in her life. Though I agree that the very-very ending of the film is just about perfect.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Yes, Peter. And I still think the scene is unwarranted, other than I suppose it is intended to make sure that we recognize the kind of lust or selfishness that led to her decision. My issue is that Polley is always such a nuanced filmmaker that I can imagine her accomplishing this in a different way.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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what's funny is that my wife walked in on me watching the movie right at that part!

I had to quickly reassure her I wasn't watching a porno. Heh. It was truly an uncomfortable scene. But I think it was supposed to be.


"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

Justin's Blog twitter Facebook Life Is Story

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Heh. It was truly an uncomfortable scene. But I think it was supposed to be.

This is part of my problem with it. It is uncomfortable for us. But it is not uncomfortable at all for her character. In fact, it is the

culmination of the desire she had been resisting throughout the film, which makes it utterly pornographic.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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I won't defend the explicitness of the scene. I really wish it were otherwise. But I can't help but notice how cheap, tawdry, and frivolousit seems in context. In the bright lights of that moment, we see that this is nothing compared to a relationship of tenderness, fidelity, and intimacy. It's kind of like saying, "Here's the full product description of what you've bought with your decision." And while the images may fulfill the purpose of pornography for those who download them out of context (and I know people will, shamefully), in context they only add to the condemnation of the whole affair.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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M. Leary wrote:

: This is part of my problem with it. It is uncomfortable for us. But it is not uncomfortable at all for her character. In fact, it is the culmination of the desire she had been resisting throughout the film, which makes it utterly pornographic.

Actually, I'd say what makes the scene even worse is that the film never gave us any hint that she *had* the sorts of desires that are culminated in that sequence. It hits us out of the blue on a content level, as well as on a stylistic level. Hence my "off the rails" comment.

But it's been over a year since I saw the film, so who knows, maybe it would hold together better, now that I know where it ends up.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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It's kind of like saying, "Here's the full product description of what you've bought with your decision."

I like your way of phrasing that, but then does that not make it a stunt? A kind of pornographic performance art?

It hits us out of the blue on a content level, as well as on a stylistic level. Hence my "off the rails" comment.

Yep.

FWIW, I took the content of the scene as the logical evolution of a relationship founded upon unfettered desire.

Sure. But that still isn't enough formal rationale for me. Not sure why this particular sex scene is bugging me more than others.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Nick Olson wrote:

: FWIW, I took the content of the scene as the logical evolution of a relationship founded upon unfettered desire.

But had that much desire -- and that many *varieties* of desire -- really been "fettered" in her case in the first place? If so, nothing in the film prior to that point (that I can recall) had indicated as much. That's my issue here.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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To put this another way, the rhetoric of "logical evolutions" reminds me of how people sometimes object to premarital sex or same-sex marriage by saying, "But if we allow *this*, then we'll end up allowing *that*," etc. But it ain't necessarily so, y'know? I remember deliberately startling people in my College & Career group 20 years ago by saying things like, "If I wasn't a Christian, I'd be bisexual, because there'd be no reason not to be" -- and my youth pastor, after looking at me a little stunned, then went on to say, "You're right!" -- but the fact is, I had never actually felt a sexual attraction to a man. The heart doesn't follow "logic" unless it's propelled by something else, and I never got the sense that the Williams character felt anything propelling her down some of the "logical" paths fleshed out in the movie's last 10-15 minutes.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Peter-

I just mean that the very nature of their relationship was, foundationally, of a forbidden nature. So while it wasn't destined to happen, I also wasn't surprised by it, particularly when their relationship was primarily about sexual desire.

And so I agree that it's not necessarily the case that people who engage in affairs will go *there.* And I object as much as you do to the kind of thinking you describe in your most recent post. But it also wasn't totally surprising for me to see it happen. It's a logical evolution in the sense that it's a natural possibility given the foundational nature of their relationship. They are together, in part at least, because they both want the freedom to explore where their sexual desire takes them.

In a sense, I think there's evidence to suggest that she *felt* like her desires were fettered, because she had desires that she didn't feel her husband was meeting which she thought the affair would meet. Her desires could have been met in her marriage, but they weren't being met, and so her marriage felt like a restriction on her desire. So much so that she felt she deserved to be rewarded for her faithfulness.

Edited by Nick Olson

"What is inside is also outside." -Goethe via Merleau-Ponty, in conclusion to the latter's one extended rumination on film
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Just saw your comment M. Leary. FWIW, I wasn't offering up a justification for the depiction. I'm in agreement as far as discomfort with that goes.

Edited by Nick Olson

"What is inside is also outside." -Goethe via Merleau-Ponty, in conclusion to the latter's one extended rumination on film
Filmwell, Twitter, & Letterboxd

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Which, as the director capably demonstrates, is awful. That dude just wants to nail that girl across the street, and succeeds. She sees a dude across the street as a sort of freedom from disappointment in her current situation, and goes for it. Honestly, the parallelism between her and drunk and destructive friend is also really hackneyed in that it seems structured to hammer home how others have perceived her choice, but is so on the nose that it loses its force.

But... I want to push harder on this. I struggle greatly with the ethics of nudity in film, and I think this is one of the worst uses of the human body in cinema this year, which is significant, given that I saw way more of Denis Lavant than I ever wanted to. I think Polley made a really bad choice here that undermines the film. That scene could have been done differently, my Rohmer comment a pointed reference that direction.

One thing this film does well is make me dwell in Seth Rogan's resolution, which is a means of freedom for him. I love chicken.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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I struggle greatly with the ethics of nudity in film,

Me, too.

I think this is one of the worst uses of the human body this year

Yeah, all things considered (content, context, etc.), I can't remember anything worse. Though the very beginning of Flight isn't far behind.


"What is inside is also outside." -Goethe via Merleau-Ponty, in conclusion to the latter's one extended rumination on film
Filmwell, Twitter, & Letterboxd

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Yeah, all things considered (content, context, etc.), I can't remember anything worse. Though the very beginning of Flight isn't far behind.

Oh, man, that was awful. The very definition of gratuitous.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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