WARNING: This column contains SPOILERS and a special kind of hate against the continued economically unrealistic portrayal of rickshaw drivers.
These were my initial thoughts after watching Sarah Polley's latest directorial effort Take This Waltz.
I'm hoping they will use it in the marketing campaign.
Skipping to the end, the take home message of Take This Waltz was, "aren't we are all just a bunch of self serving loathesome creatures whose time on this Earth is short lived and filled with UNRELENTING misery?"
This movie can be placed in the Anti-Romance genre of film making, exchanging meant to be for you'll do for now. File it next to Blue Valentine, Shame and Tiny Furniture, as well as any other film where unpleasant characters both fear and crave intimacy due to modern day angst.
In the Anti-Romance world the grass is always greener, but if you ever see it up close you will quickly realize all of nature is dead and it was just a mirage to begin with.
Especially if you're Michelle Williams.
And in a way, aren’t we all Michelle Williams?
But give her time; she’ll be trying to cram herself into whatever nook society deems acceptable before breaking down outside a Tim Hortons when she’s thirty two.
So the plot.
Take This Waltz is about Margo’s (Mic Wilz) brief connection with Daniel (Luke Kirby) on a connecting flight home to Toronto, and what should have been a moment of flirtation turns into a films worth of sexy danger when it emerges he lives on her street.
I knew this was a serious film right from the start. Williams appeared on screen with dishevelled hair and a shiny forehead. No foundation and no hairbrush means it’s going to be grittier then a Toronto highway in Winter.
Luke is a rickshaw driver.
If his apartment is anything to go by, he is the worlds greatest riskshaw driver. Or there is a deleted scene where he explains his involvement in a profitable bank heist.
Margo is neither happily or unhappily married to chicken lover Seth Rogen, who is working on a cook book about different ways to make chicken. She seems comfortable. He seems like he wants to have sex with the poultry more then her.
(I must interrupt myself to ask you to think of the most tired film conceit for the reveal of a published book. Yep, they do that here)
William and Rogen have the most annoying relationship in the world. Their coupleisms (the private behaviour and language of the couple) involve baby talk and declaring cute ways in which they would like to maim each other. “Hey I just got a new melon baller I want to gouge your eyes out with.”
Inevitably the baby talk gets too odd and Margo is drawn to the rickshaw driver with his sinewy arms and illustrations that see through to her very soul i.e. really creepy depictions of her unfulfilled potential.
The middle of the film then deals with the burgeoning sexual tension. I liked those parts. The beginnings of the affair are appropriately slow burning, showing the two partaking in activities that involved close proximity, but how they fight the urge to grope. It was torture to watch, but in an empathic way.
Then they eventually hook up. And that's where it lost it for me.
I know some complained that the stark realism of Blue Valentine got too much at times, but I didn't mind that. I never thought Gosling and Williams belonged together to begin with, so their decision to separate felt like a happy ending if anything.
But this film tricks you. It starts out with all the premise of a romantic indie, with the cute meet and the exciting quirky adventures, and the soul baring, building up for a “we should be together, but I should stay with my husband and do the right thing.” But then it rips the carpet out. It crushed me how increasingly awful Williams character got as the film went on. At first she was confused, then as she gives into her base desires she turns into a needy unsatisfied flake, which she probably was all along, its just we spend a lot of time with her. It’s a long film.
But Polley seems to swap our sympathies around. We start off seeing Rogen as a nice, safe but ultimately bland guy, but by the end he is the matyr who sends his woman off to be with some rickshaw driver because he is the better person. This may be true, but he may also be more simple then her. They never explore that option enough.
My complaint is that it does its best to show us, those who want the romantic dream or unattainable happy ending are bad people, who will never be happy. This might be a uncomfortable home truth for me, but it doesn’t show us a good alternative.
Sarah Silverman, who plays Rogen's sister, is presented as the most sympathetic character (apart from her daughter), and even she hits rock bottom and breaks her sobriety with some thorough parental neglect. Just before she is arrested she asks Margo why she had to try and fill the gap.
I wish this film had answered that too.
I know the message of the film was don't leave one thing for something shinier, just hang out by yourself for a bit trying to work out if what your missing is a shiny rickshaw driver or in fact inner love and satisfaction.
But couldn’t they have thrown some light into the learning at the same time?