By Clint Morris
The grass is never greener on the other side, that’s the message at the center of Sarah Polley’s stay-with-the-one-that-truly-loves-you forewarner, ”Take this Waltz”.
This ‘new eventually becomes old too’ reminder, based on a 2010 black list script by actress Polley, will likely send Nicholas Sparks into convulsions, and any young woman who has ditched her solid, loving but seemingly vanilla partner for someone a little more caramel and mysterious , straight to a library to loan a ‘get him back’ fix-it manual.
One can assume why folks like Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson, Pink and Corey Hart, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, Barbara Hershey and Naveen Andrews, Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, Jude Law and Sienna Miller, Mr and Mrs Pac-Man, keep coming back together and that’s because, after exploring what are seemingly more exciting and mysterious options away from each other, they realize that love and security rests within each other’s arms, not a stranger’s well-worn sheets and temporary bursts of affectionate attention.
As we all know, a soul mate beats a provisional mate, no matter how new and mysterious he or she may be – each and every time.
But sometimes, and it goes the same for schools, jobs, friends, eating habits and interests, it’s sometimes too late before you realize you should have never have traded in your original, stable pick for this new thing. As any psychology scholar will tell us, there’s a reason you stuck with and enjoyed the thing you originally had, mainly it was comfortable and a fit, and it’s not until this new thing, the previously undetected option – that you impulsively traded the other in for – loses its shine and evokes frowns, that we realize we should never have played swapsies.
The revelation that ‘the one’ was the doting vanilla chap, and not the mysterious stranger who told us everything we wanted to hear, always comes after the fact, it seems, and there’s nothing left to do but accept our new fate and future.
Heck, it’s like me – though I’ve always been a Pepsi man, sometimes a nice icy, cold can of Coke sitting atop of a chilled store refrigerator catches my attention. And occasionally, I’ll buy that can, instead of picking up what I know I enjoy and are comfortable with, and yes, I’m always disappointed. Looks great on the outside, very appealing and exciting, and yeah, it’s something different – but once well into it, I’ll be disappointed. Now if only I can take back that half-drunk can of Coke and get my beloved Pepsi back.
Polley’s film poses such questions, well not about soft drinks, but about relationships, while answering others like ‘is it love or lust?’ and ‘is true love worth sacrificing for fleeting excitement?’, in a way that’s impactful but objective. The film isn’t bleak, nor does it paint anyone as a bad person, it’s punch simply derives from the realistic storytelling of an all-too-real rollercoaster ride of playing swap-market with a partner whose price-tag you misjudged.
The amazing Michelle Williams, seemingly the only ”Dawson’s Creek” cast member who has gone on to a solid, diverse and acclaimed acting career since the teen soap’s departure, brings emotional gravitas and level-headed liability to the role of an anxious, confused young woman who, despite having the love of a doting husband and prankster (Seth Rogen, in what’s inarguably the biggest departure of his career and he’s terrific), considers straying into the arms of a young mystery man (Luke Kirby) who she meets on a business trip.
The two strangers ultimately discover, once back on home soil, that they live across the street from each other and thus, will struggle to not only fight their feelings, but will have a hard time avoiding each other. The more she restrains herself from pursuing the tryst, the more the hunger inside her growls for ‘the strange’. And yes, we can almost envision the black hole slowly opening beneath the poor lass as she begins to walk down the new road.
What’s going on in Margot’s mind is that by trading in her seemingly not-so-mysterious, monotonous but quite pleasant relationship with the adorable Lou and going off with the not-as-stable or happy Daniel, she’ll herself be awakened to a life of excitement, happiness and the kind of bliss she hasn’t experienced since, well, her current relationship begun. But in her pursuit of chasing a temporary happy grin and some fireworky passion that’ll last a good two weeks – that’s not giving anything away, we know how these things end up – she also unconsciously spirals into a wave of self-destructiveness and further confusion.
Without giving anything away about the film, let’s just look at how these yarns go in real life. When the excitement and mystery of something new fades, what’s left? Love? Trust? Comfort? Financial and Interpersonal security? they’re the questions our heroine asks herself as she begins to realize the one she should be ‘waltz’ing with is the man that’s stood by her through thick-and-thin, the man that’s been there to cheer her up with a silly joke and a barrage of funny voices, or the one that’s always got some chicken cooking to fill her stomach. As Margot will discover, happiness can’t be found in the stranger whose flaws will only come to the surface after it’s too late, and the realization that this person turning up was the moment life took a turn for the worse, but the whole scenario does reiterate the think-before-you-act rule we’ve been brought up to follow.
So, does Margot set out to fix her life? does she revalue and redeem her true mate? Or will she, as she attests to at the beginning of the film, continue to be ‘afraid of being afraid’ and simply let her new, bleak life swallow her whole?
Hollywood generally tells us that anything can be fixed, especially when it comes to a relationship, but Polley’s film plays to a slightly different tune. Here, we’re reminded that sometimes we have to live with our mistakes and, even if means ending up with a life that’s not near anywhere as happy, warming or secure as it was before the exercise in risk was initiated. Not that that’s how it ends up in the film, in fact it’s not like that at all, but that is the point being made within it. Don’t make your bed before you’re ready to sleep in it – for the rest of your days, with the person you want to wake up to every morning… even if he is the mischievous guy who loves throwing cups of cold water on you while you’re enjoying your warm shower.
Maybe this isn’t a flick for those that have made the mistake, but it might be a good one for those who are about to or haven’t sunk so low they can’t yank the big hand on the clock and try turn back time a few notches.
“Take this Waltz”, aside from offering up a message that’s painted in such lavishly large strokes and in-your-face effectiveness that you’ll swear Polley’s (“Away We Go”) script was written front-to-back in the IMPACT font, features three divine performances from Williams, Rogen and Kirby (actually, Sarah Silverman, is good too. Despite being the film’s token ‘bad apple’, her buddy character is actually the voice of reason), a lavishly warm production design, some delicious accurate dialogue (“Life has a gap in it, it just does. You’re going to go crazy trying to fill it”) and, if I do say so myself, the best use of ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ in a film ever.
In fact, makes me want to listen to it again! Now who wants to come roller-skating with me and whisk and giggle around a rink while such daggy, but bottom-shaking ditties send my storks into spasms!? C’mon girlies, you know you want to!? (You watch, ten guys will email).
Final Note : Margot says in the film ‘She’s afraid if she’ll wonder if she will miss it?’ – - Yep, Margot seems you will miss it. But that’s why movies like this exist, to help you stay on the straight and narrow love, and recognize your true match before you play duck, duck, goose with another. You really should catch it, girl!
It’s made Emily Blunt realize that I’m the real man in her life, not John Krasinski! (Phone rings… Ms Blunt is on the other end, wants to be the Piggy to my Kermit. And go roller-skating to bad pop tunes from the past. As you would!). Let’s boogie Em! You know that other guy couldn’t even turn on a microwave, so close your eyes, listen to the song, and imagine us skating crazily around a rink together! And yes, I will even swoosh my head to the air guitar bits and even give my best…
… and yes, I’m serious. I wanna go crazy skating now, swaying my head and doing the crazy jumps to the classics! Who is in!?!