REVIEW: Take This Waltz

6 08 2012

Michelle Williams, fresh off a Best Actress nomination for “My Week With Marilyn,” disappointingly dials down the charm back down to “Blue Valentine” levels for her latest film, “Take This Waltz.”  It’s a return, though not necessarily a regression, to the familiarly frumpy, downtrodden women who prefer to express their thoughts by gazing at the ground rather than through words.  Williams is a fantastic actress, and she pulls it off so well time after time – but I think it’s time to start expecting more from her.

Her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe was far more than a caricature or an impersonation; it was spirited, sexy, and oh so soulful.  It was definitely outside Williams’ comfort zone, yet she totally nailed it!  I think “My Week With Marilyn” is hardly her limit, and the longer she dwells in her pre-Marilyn state of mind, the more disappoint her post-Marilyn films are going to feel.   (Yes, “Take This Waltz” was filmed first, but virtually no one saw it first.)

Perhaps it’s less the archetype I’m frustrated with and more her character in Sarah Polley’s sauntering drama.  As a sullen Toronto-dweller bored in her marriage, she begins to ponder an affair with the literal boy next door … well, down the street.  Daniel, a shyly passionate artist as well as rickshaw for money, is the man who will indulge her deepest sensual passions and go through the Kama Sutra with her.

But she’s married to the sweet, good-hearted poultry chef Lou, played with good-natured charm by Seth Rogen.  He has moments where perhaps he seems content to let the spark go out of their marriage, although it’s always clear that he’s the man we should be rooting for because he does care for her and will always love her deeply.

The decision is overwrought and strung out over nearly two hours when it could have easily been compressed to 90 minutes.  Sarah Polley’s camera does dazzle more than the usual quiet indie drama.  However, the story those images serves to complement is little more than a segment from “He’s Just Not That Into You” that fashions itself to be a drama.  C+