The biggest problem that Take This Waltz will have in reaching a wide audience (aside from the fact that it's pretty terrible, but I'll get to that later) will come in terms of marketing.
Everyone knows that films in the romance genre tend to be pretty ridiculous. I'm obviously generalizing here, but these movies tend to be about as contrived as they come.
But that's what people who seek out films of that nature want to see. They want to see the fairy tale ending, the way they want love to end. Here, Sarah Polley wrote and directed a film that went in a different direction.
In attempting to portray something more authentic, something that deals with the heavier side of relationships and temptations, Polley likely alienated her biggest potential audience.
That isn't a bad thing by any means. I greatly respect an attempt to break the mold and stray from convention.
The problem is that nothing in Take This Waltz feels as authentic as Polley clearly wanted it to. None of these characters connect with audience, and the "relationships" portrayed are just plain weird. This actually made me feel very uncomfortable.
Michelle Williams plays Margot, a 20-something woman who is married to an aspiring cook-book author named Lou (Seth Rogen). The two appear to have a decent relationship, but for some reason Margot isn't as happy as she should be.
In an early scene that contains perhaps the most obvious foreshadowing of all time, Margot says that she doesn't like being in between things. She actually says this to a guy named Daniel (Luke Kirby) as the two sit next to each other on an airplane.
Daniel, of course, is a local artist and rickshaw runner (yeah that's right, rickshaws) who lives literally right across the street from the couple. Margot is drawn to Daniel, and as the two get way closer than they should, she'll need to decide whether her marriage is worth saving.
There's also a bit of a failed side-plot with Lou's sister (played by an oddly cast Sarah Silverman), a recovering alcoholic who continually tries to be the voice of reason in Margot's life.
I've seen this film described in various reviews as being unpredictable, and while I won't spoil the ending, it's pretty obvious that there are only a small handful of ways in which this can unfold. The problem for me was that I didn't care either way. None of these characters are in the least bit likable.
Margot clearly wants to cheat on her husband and Daniel, despite being given some scenes that try to portray him as the guy who won't have an affair with a married woman, is clearly trying to bait Margot into doing just that.
And Lou, who the audience should be sympathetic towards, ignores some obvious signs that Margot is unhappy and is actually kind of a jerk at times. This sounds terrible, but I actually wanted everything to end badly for all of them.
The acting is kind of blah. Williams, who is almost always reliable, is fine but is nothing great. And Rogen, in his first even semi-dramatic role, isn't given a whole lot to do. And unfortunately, Polley turns to him for some of the more comedic moments allowing him to do what he does best: turn any character into the real life Seth Rogen.
Polley tried so hard to make this movie authentic that in the end, almost nothing is authentic (see Blue Valentine for a movie about a failing relationship that is all too real). From the character's occupations, to the design of the sets, to the things each of them say, everything feels fake.
Margot and Lou have some idiosyncratic couples habits, some of which are believable and others of which are just plain odd. The characters do and say things that no real person that I can think of would do or say, like having a party where everyone is drinking to celebrate the sobriety of Silverman's character, or telling basically a complete stranger "I don't like being in between things."
Nudity is used far too often for shock value, and some of the more already awkward moments drag on so long that it's beyond agonizing. I almost want to say that Polley's goal was to make the audience feel uncomfortable, but it's done in such a way as to basically remove the viewer from the story.
It's never a good thing when I can't wait for something to end. The over-long running time didn't help in that department. Take This Waltz is currently on video-on-demand, and it opens in limited theaters at the end of June, but I'd highly suggest passing on this one.