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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"Take This Waltz": Mopey, Misguided

Spoiler alert! This review will reveal the end of "Take This Waltz."

"Take This Waltz" tells the story of Margot, a chronically depressed woman who is in a nice, stable marriage to Lou, a nice, stable guy. Margot meets, by chance, Daniel, a man who is slimmer, poorer, more artistic, and more conventionally handsome than her nice, stable husband. Don promises Margot hot experiences in bed. Margot leaves Lou for Dan.

In a montage sequence, Margot is shown having hot encounters with Dan, including three ways. Then Margot is shown being, again, chronically depressed. Margot implies that she regrets leaving Lou.

And that's it. That's the whole movie. It's not funny; it's not smart; it's not wonderful to look at. The direction, sets, costumes, dialogue, are all very not-special. The one powerful thing in the film is Michelle Williams' performance as Margot. Williams is a one woman storm front. Williams flutters and pouts and tears up and mopes with great gusto. Her performance totally overpowers anything else in the film, and it just starts feeling odd that someone is acting so hard in response to such a flimsy script in a film that isn't going anywhere.

Lou and Margot aren't believable as a stable, settled couple. Michelle Williams is too young and too attractive. You think – he married her for her looks; she married him because she was looking for a rock. Their marriage is awkward. They aren't shown supporting or enjoying each other. They are shown not connecting and letting each other down. You don't get the sense that Margot is sacrificing one good thing – intimacy and security – for another good thing – dangerous but thrilling encounters with the unknown. You get the sense that someone without much life experience or depth wrote this script very quickly and without input or rewrites.

The film throws in attempts to be artistic. Margot meets Dan at an open air museum where historical re-enactors whip a man accused of adultery. Margot is lectured by naked older women in a public shower: even new things get old. Lou is a cookbook author who writes only about chicken. The joke is, of course, that even exotic meats like snake are said to "taste like chicken." Exotic Dan will eventually bore Margot just as domestic Lou did. These attempts to be artistic just make the film desperate and pretentious, not deep.

The problem with the film is the problem with Margot. She is depressed; that is the central fact of her life. A dramatically arresting film about Margot would address her depression. She'd do what depressed people do – go to a shrink, try various medications, contemplate suicide, talk it out with friends. The film tries to be about the entropy of nice, stable relationships versus the appeal of the hot Bohemian stranger who promises an erotic candy shop of delights. That very interesting dilemma is not honored by the film. You don't look at Margot and think, "Appreciate what you have," or even, "Go for it!" You look at Margot and think "Prozac. Please. Or talk therapy or something. Or else this film is going to kill me with boredom."

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