This may be the only time of my life that I agree with the Guardian film reviewer, Peter Bradshaw. I will go even further and say that his review is far better written than by Philip French, in sister paper the Observer. I realise I have now raised my own stakes.
I was so taken by director Sarah Polley’s maturity in her debut, Away from Her. A young woman was able to craft a film (admittedly not her own story, but adapted from a book) about people twice her age on how creeping memory loss means a marriage longer than Polly’s lifetime is severed as Julie Christie’s character goes into a retirement home.
Unsure about the Picturehouse synopsis but encouraged by a friend and Polley’s previous work, I caught Take This Waltz in its frustratingly short run at our local cinema.
The maturity has gone. Not only are the subjects younger but Michelle William’s quiveringly raw acting once again lost me in the early scenes. I found her relationship with both men incredibly immature – rolling around, worse than puppies and teenagers. Many of the horrible things said in the name of affection between Margot and Lou were disturbing (eg the rape comments). Equally silly was Daniel, who she lusts for but cannot hold a conversation with, and with whom she bonds by blowing something dangling in the back of a taxi. Whether the long sequence with him was actual or fantasy, I struggled to see how they could have a realistic life together, as beyond the sex, there was little connection.
I agree that this film is unsexy and the supposedly erotic verbal description of what Daniel would do to Margot sounded as well crafted and enticing as pubescent toilet graffiti. He began well and then seemed to run out of description – but erotic talk is a craft; simply saying how much you’re going to fuck them is pretty lame.
As was the premise and much of the film. I hated the opening scene where Margot visits a historic fort and is asked to whip an actor in the name of public punishment, all being cheered on and photographed by tourists. I was never quite sure what it was meant to say. That bloodlust still runs high enough to feature as a highlight of a modern tour disturbed me. How Daniel’s egging her on related to their characters and relationships, I was unsure. That he sat with her on the plane home was one unlikely coincidence; that he lived opposite was one too far.
When Margot bursts into tears on her husband after another rebuffed seduction attempt and he says ‘what the fuck?!’, he reiterated my thoughts about the entire movie. Margot seems to have incredibly bad timing – her chef husband is cooking the main meal of the day. No wonder he wasn’t responsive.
The alcoholic sister in law was an unnecessary subplot, the only thing that gave was someone the chance to say how badly Margot has behaved by taking off. Geraldine’s brief disappearance was not sufficient crisis to bring Margot back to the family.
The swimming scene showing Daniel and Margot in synchrony was a beautiful cinematic idea but was based in nothing we saw with the couple, and so was an empty piece of choreography. We needed scenes to show they actually were attuned.
As for the them of being afraid of the inbetween – we never actually saw one. Margot is not in between relationships . Her marriage need not have died; she lacked the maturity to have any way of sorting its problems. I was surprised that such a childish coupling had been cemented in marriage.
Wisely I think the film is trying to say that actually Margot has yet to learn that passion and desire are not enough alone. It seems that her missing connections is more than about airports, but about people – but it failed to make one with me.