The Waltz

I've been lucky enough to score myself a couple of free movie passes lately.  We enjoyed 'Wish you were here', a great australian suspense movie at an early sunday morning session.  If you missed it on the big screen, grab it on dvd.  This week we saw 'Take this Waltz', the new Michelle Williams movie. This is where I admit to having a soft spot for Michelle.  I wrote about another movie she was in (Blue Valentine) back in January 2011.  Similarly, this movie shows a failing marriage and what happens when love just doesn't seem enough.  Perhaps I should put in a spoiler alert here.

There have been quite mixed reviews of this movie, which seem to fall into either 'love it' or 'hate it' categories.  If you were expecting a jaunty rom-com, you would be disappointed.  Even if there are a few clunky moments to the film, I think overall it has much to offer. So much so, that I've been thinking about it for days.  So, the synopsis goes: Margot (Michelle) has been married to Lou (Seth Rogen) for five years.  He writes cookbooks and she writes for a local tourism website.  We see the love between Margot and Lou, but also the disconnect between them. While on location, Margot meets Daniel (Luke Kirby) who just happens to be their new neighbour.  The spark between them is almost instant and the rest of the film explores the dance of 'will she / wont she'.

There are a few really beautiful scenes in this film, and some great dialogue.  When Margot and Daniel meet she explains that she's frightened of missing connections when she's traveling. She not scared of what will happen, but simply uneasy of being stuck in between places.  Daniel suggests she's 'afraid of being afraid'.  Later in the movie, in one of my favourite scenes, Margot is in a water aerobics class with her sister-in-law Geraldine (Sarah Silverman).  In the showers afterwards, Gerry states that she's thought about leaving her husband, but after ten years together she still likes him as a person.  She could leave him for someone new and shiny, but what's the guarantee she'd like them after ten years?  An elderly women, also in the showers, smiles knowingly offering that 'new things get old too'.

Just when you think Margot will stay in her marriage, she jumps.  Set to the song the movie was inspired by, Leonard Cohen's Take this Waltz, we see the camera spin around the room as Margot and Daniel have their first kiss.  We watch their relationship go from new and shiny, filled with adventurous sex and quiet comforts like reading books at each end of the couch.  They create their own home together and as comfort becomes comfortable, the bed is no longer the heart of the home.  It is replaced by the couch as they sit side by side watching television.  The idea of waltzing and circles is highlighted again by a scene identical to the opening scene in the movie, where Margot is baking muffins and then sits staring blankly into the oven.  What are we to make of this?  Has she left one relationship simply to end up in the same place?  In one scene Gerry yells at her, saying 'life has a gap in it, it just does.  You don't go crazy trying to fill it'.

Has Margot made a mistake?  In a way, the film leaves us to make up our own minds.  I think however, the very last scene gives us an insight into what Sarah Polley (the writer and director) thinks.  We see Margot on a fairground ride, spinning with her hair rushing, music pumping loudly (The Buggles' Video killed the radio star - which you'll have trouble getting out of your head for the rest of the day) and a smile on her face.  She is alone.  So what does it all mean?  We all see things through our own life experience.  And in this I see a woman who was in a relationship that made her nervous about life.  She jumped for something new and shiny, and although in a way she has ended up back in the same place, her smile while on the ride alone shows that she is happy within herself.  The choice and change was right for her.

This is of course my take on things.  And I guess anyone who knows me or has been reading this blog, knows that I jumped too.  In some ways, Gerry's claim that life has a hole in it is true.  You can't expect that gap to be filled by the right relationship, or job, or house or shoes!  Running after things won't make you feel differently about yourself.  You can however, aim to be in a relationship that doesn't make you anxious and allows you to be free and the person you are supposed to be.  That gap can only be filled by ourselves.  So perhaps the people who hated this movie wanted an escapist rom-com where you make a choice one way or the other and life is fireworks and excitement.  But I love it because it shows that even with the thrill of new and shiny, it's great to have love and contentment and happiness. Both within a relationship and within ourselves.


frantastic bees said…
I saw this last week and loved it too, perhaps not so much because of its plot, but because it was so much from a woman's point of view, the naked bodies in the shower were so real, not idealised. It was such a surprise and relief when she jumped, a good thing I thought, and the endplay made it more real rather than the happy ever after ending....
Andy said…
I loved it for all those reasons too. There was an authenticity to certain scenes and interesting that even happiness can be tinged with sadness. The shower scene was so great. : )

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