Saturday, July 14, 2012

Take This Waltz

Take This Waltz
seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

One thing I've never understood about every "cheating" movie I've ever seen - from The Scarlet Letter to Brief Encounter to Fatal Attraction to The Bridge of Madison County and more - is how someone, anyone, can think a sexual relationship with a married party would be worth pursuing. Morality aside, even if the married party is unhappy in their marriage, which is usually the case, is a little bit of hot sex on the side worth the copious amounts of inevitable drama? 

Sure, it happens all the time in real life - some of the greatest romances in Hollywood history were the result of extramarital affairs - but it seems to me like it's asking for trouble more often than not. After all, what guarantee do you have that the married party will definitely leave their spouse? The spouse will likely linger in such a relationship, the elephant in the room you can't avoid, and you can never be truly free as long as they're still around. So what do you do?

If you're in a film noir, you could kill the spouse, but that never works out. There's always a betrayal or a double cross of some sort which you never see coming (even if the audience does). If you're in a horror movie, it won't even matter, because you'll wind up getting killed anyway through nothing more than fate - remember The Rules. No, you have to hope for being in a rom-com, in which a wacky third act climax will lead to some kind of happy resolution in which either (a) you discover you're meant to be together after all, or (b) you have to settle for an alternate pairing with the best friend - depending on whether you're the alpha or beta couple.

There's a married friend I have who, if she wasn't married, I would totally go after, but I have way too much respect for her husband to ever act on my feelings. He's a good guy and he's good for her. I may flirt here and there, but that's as far as it would ever go. In my case, however, it's simple morality at work. I know exactly how I'd feel if another man made a move on my girl.

Still, extramarital affairs always make for great drama, which is why they get made, and that's cool. I can't recall seeing such a movie in which the principals were all young (late 20s) before seeing Take This Waltz, and the more I think about it, the more I feel like it was a bit of an impediment. Writer-director Sarah Polley presents a very mature, very adult kind of story with a married couple who are all lovey-dovey and sickeningly cutesy with each other, like the honeymoon never ended. I wasn't entirely convinced that there was enough of a reason for Michelle Williams to step out on Seth Rogen other than boredom, which makes her seem like a bitch for cheating!

I tried, I really tried to find something about Margot's situation that could make me sympathize with her more, but I couldn't - yet I couldn't get as angry with her as I wanted to, probably because she is Michelle Williams, an actress I absolutely adore and am naturally inclined to like. For one thing, she's not as manipulative as, say, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Nor is she entirely passive. She enters this affair with her eyes open, but she doesn't seem to know what to do with it. She's not after some kind of shared relationship; while she has issues of some kind with her husband, she doesn't demand a divorce, and she doesn't seem guilty enough to want to reconsider her affair, so what's the point really? Thankfully, Sarah Silverman is there to eventually tell her what a bitch she's being, though not after going through some shit herself.

Williams, as usual, makes the whole thing watchable, and in more ways than one this time. Prior to last year's My Week with Marilyn, I had always found her beautiful, attractive, but not... sexy. Not in a Scarlet Johanssen-type of way. I had always thought of hers as a demure, down-to-earth kind of beauty, like Winona Ryder at the same age. Portraying an iconic sex goddess like Marilyn Monroe proved Williams could turn on the heat, but even that didn't prepare me for seeing her in this movie completely full-frontal naked. There's a brief but steamy sex scene near the end, but even before that, there's a shower scene about halfway through that's actually pretty important in a character-developing way.

I totally did not know she was gonna be naked in this movie, and while I certainly can't complain, at the same time she always struck me as the kind of actress who wouldn't do nude scenes. Not sure why; just a feeling. I imagine it's indicative of the level of trust Williams had in Polley - this is only the latter's second film as a director. For what it's worth, most of her nude scenes aren't necessarily prurient. They're like European films in which it's incidental.

I guess I'm finding that my perception of Williams as an actress is continuing to evolve, and that's cool. Like I said, I'm a big fan of hers. I've found the types of films and roles she's taken in the past few years to be exciting and unique. I'm even willing to see her in a big-budget Hollywood genre movie like next year's Oz: The Great and Powerful. I just hope she continues to make good decisions with her roles. Waltz didn't work for me as well as, say, Blue Valentine, but it does seem like part of the continuing path of progression Williams is on as an actress, and I like that much, at least.

(As an aside: I had no idea Toronto was so colorful! The colors in this movie really pop out.)


  1. Very interetsing to read your thoughts on this. Glad you did and wrote about it. I also had no clue it was still on the big screen anywhere since I saw it on the computer and it wasn't a cam, but full quality 1080p blu-ray as if from a disc or off iTunes, so color me confused.

    I had been pulled into this from hearing about the Silverman nudity! Michelle Williams has done quite a bit of nudity. Brokeback Mountain, Incendiary, Blue Valentine.

    It was the first and ONLY nudity Sarah Silverman had done though not to mention the totally awesome Canadian TV's Jennifer Podemski, who've I've crushed on forever!

    The being a Sarah Polley film excited me too. If you enjoyed this from a storytelling and film standpoint, see AWAY FROM HER, very compelling flick.

  2. I thought it was only Anne Hathaway that was nude in 'Brokeback'? It's been awhile since I've seen that, so I don't remember. And regardless, here she goes full-frontal, as does Silverman (which I had heard about first as well), but like I said, it's 'tasteful' nudity.

    I did see 'Away From Her.' Liked it.


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