Sarah Polley Take this Waltz

Take This Waltz: The naked truth of Sarah Polley

Sarah Polley, whose Away From Her was a huge hit with the geriatric set, turns her eye on her own generation with Take This Waltz

Sarah Polley Take this Waltz
ARTISTIC HONESTY: Sarah Polley on the set of Take This Waltz. Photo by Michael Gibson

Sarah Polley, whose Away From Her was a huge hit with the geriatric set, turns her eye on her own generation with Take This Waltz. Michelle Williams stars as Margot, an outwardly bubbly yet internally troubled young freelance journalist married to goofy, amiable cookbook writer Lou (Seth Rogen). On a business trip, she meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), a handsome charmer who turns out to live across the street from her Toronto home. Attracted to Kirby and dissatisfied with her marriage, which seems to consist mostly of exchanging cutesy inside jokes, she struggles with the time-honoured conflict between morality and desire.

Having heard more than one story about Sarah Polley being a bit difficult, and having been warned by the publicist not to ask personal questions, I was a bit apprehensive about our brief phone interview, but she was talkative and articulate in discussing her unique new film.

The always excellent Williams brings a lot of depth to a role that could easily have just been grating, and I wondered how Polley herself perceives Margot.

“She represents that part of all of us that we’d rather not think about in terms of our own character,” she replies. “She’s complex, she’s deeply flawed, she doesn’t really know who she is, and she’s struggling with something that we all do: a gap in life, and whether it should be filled or if we should just live with it.”

One of the surprises in Take This Waltz is a dramatic performance from Sarah Silverman, who plays Rogen’s sister, a mother and recovering alcoholic. “I’m her number one fan, I’m totally obsessed with everything she’s ever done,” says Polley; offering Silverman the role was “kind of a lark, and I was astonished when she said yes.”

Silverman handles herself quite well, and I was curious how she and Williams approached playing Canadian characters in a film that, without resorting to cheap nationalist pandering, proudly wears its Toronto setting on its sleeve.

“They all had a dialect coach and learned how to do Canadian accents, which was hilarious,” Polley recalls. “And actually, even the Canadian actors had to be retaught their Canadian accents, since we’re always trained not to use them.”

A scene that had tongues wagging on the festival circuit features Williams, Silverman and several other women chatting in a swimming-pool shower, in all their full-frontal glory. “I didn’t want to shy away from the human body, but I didn’t want to show it in a sexual context,” Polley explains. “I like the idea about women standing around talking—there’s something workaday about it and not cheap or senstational.”

Like the Williams-starring Blue Valentine, the film is an often painfully frank exploration of a relationship’s decline. And like Miranda July’s The Future, it portrays a certain type of adult arrested in a perpetually adolescent, or even childlike, state. In the future these films will be analyzed in Hipster Studies, an obscure quadrant of cultural research dedicated to figuring out just what was up with this generation of bohemian narcissists whose privilege couldn’t buy them their way out of perpetual ennui.

Though this quality sometimes makes it a bit difficult to watch, there’s something undeniably compelling about the film—be it Polley’s artistic honesty, Williams’ amazing screen presence, or a sense that these characters, however annoying they may sometimes be, strike a familiar chord. “I don’t think it’s a perfect film,” says Polley, “but I think that people seem to bring their own relationships to it and have strong responses to it.” ■

For more on Take This Waltz, directed by Sarah Polley, please visit the film’s IMDB page.

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