Review: ‘Take This Waltz’…actually, please don’t take anything at all.

Written and Directed by Sarah Polley

Written and Directed by Sarah Polley

Have you ever had that moment where you start something you think is going to be great, and you plough through the entire thing believing that it’s going to get better, and then at the end you wish you could have gotten that time back?

No? Well I have.

That is the essence of Take This Waltz (2011). If I have ever been so sure of something in my life, it’s that I don’t want you to waste one hour and 55 minutes of your life. It’s hard to find someone who can take talented actors like Michelle Williams and Seth Rogan and make their performances so terribly awkward that it’s hard to sit through one minute without wanting to gouge your eyes out.

Margot (Michelle Williams) is a pamphlet writer for national and historic parks and is (allegedly) happily married to cookbook author Lou (Seth Rogan). On a business trip, Margot meets an attractive man Daniel (Luke Kirby) who was at the same park and sat next to her on the plane ride home. Daniel happens to be Margot’s neighbor. He is also a rickshaw driver and an artist who is afraid to showcase his work. Geraldine (Sarah Silverman) is Lou’s sister and hangs out with Margot. Margot falls in love with Daniel over the course of the film and must figure out her life.

I honestly felt I missed something about the movie because I dislike it so much. I think the overall message of the film, if approached in at least a neutral manner, would be that life is fleeting and you need to appreciate it for what it is, and live in the present. However, the way that director Sarah Polley approached this message was that you need to be as selfish as humanly possible, and you need to be a despicable human being.

When nothing about the movie makes sense.

I love Michelle Williams. She has been a fantastic actor in every film I have seen her in (Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine, Shutter Island), not because she is a powerhouse actor, but because she is so subtle and understated in her performances. Seth Rogan is also a surprisingly talented dramatic actor; 50/50 is a great example of his versatility and ability to handle comedy and drama with ease. Even Sarah Silverman has the ability to switch between her rough humor and a sense of seriousness.

For some reason, when these actors are all put together on one set, the resulting product is a nightmare. The actors had no chemistry with each other; the “quirky” romance going on between Margot and Lou was forced and uncomfortable. The supposed passion between Margot and Daniel was nonexistent. Every time they were together, I was left squirming in my seat, praying that the scene would end.

The director’s idea of passionate romance, apparently.

The entire film was a neurotic mess. The dialogue was extremely non sequitur; the actors seemingly did not realize how to effectively deliver their lines, or rather, the screenplay was merely a poor writing job and had dialogue that didn’t make sense. Whole scenes could be eliminated and the plotline would have been the same. Sarah Silverman’s character didn’t even need to be in the film. There was entirely too much color in the movie as well. This seems like a trivial complaint, but the cinematographer’s use of color was overwhelming and made every scene confusing and muddled.

Most of the film was pointless. It merely told the story of unremarkable people who only wished to live for themselves; like Seinfeld but not funny or clever. I can appreciate a film that poses realist situations, but Take This Waltz created a series of events that could have made a compelling story, and instead turned it into a sequence of actions performed by self-serving, artificially creative people.

If you’re the kind of person that enjoys the allure of car wrecks – that feeling of disaster But You Just Have To Watch…watch Take This Waltz. For the rest of you who don’t like train wrecks, my advice to you is to just avoid it.

Rating: C-

Official Trailer

 

 

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Review: ‘Tiny Furniture’ justifies twentysomething angst

Written and Directed by Lena Dunham

Written and Directed by Lena Dunham

The one thing I cannot accuse Tiny Furniture (2010) of is a lack of sincerity. Although not stated explicitly, the film is most likely based off of writer, director, and lead Lena Dunham’s (Girls) life after graduating. I can’t say that I agree with everything the film presents, but I can say that the controversy portrayed in the film exists with purpose, and I can trust that Lena speaks with experience on the topic of young adult struggles.

Way to go, all people with ages starting with 2 and ending with numbers 0-9!

Aura (Lena Dunham) is a recent college graduate and aspiring filmmaker who moves back home so that she may figure out a career plan. She is both supported and intimidated by her successful artist/photographer of a mother, Siri (Laurie Simmons, Lena’s actual mother) and her accomplished and ambitious high school sister Nadine (Grace Dunham, Lena’s actual sister). As Aura attempts to reconnect with old friends, she meets her old British friend Charlotte (Jemima Kirk, Girls), and a fellow filmmaker Jed (Alex Karpovsky, Girls) who she recognizes from his distinctive Youtube videos. At her job as a day hostess, she meets the sous chef Keith (David Call) who she connects with over drugs. Lena makes and breaks friendships through literature, art, drugs, and sex as she tries to sort what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

This film is a precursor to Lena’s Girls sensation; it hosts many of the amateur actors that will star in her show, but the film also covers a few of the same topics that Girls discusses. Although I have not witnessed the controversial content of Girls’ Holy Grail of Crazy Things Young People Do, I can imagine that this film and the television show have the same feel. What I’m talking about is the feeling that could only come from a creative director who was in the moment of the experiences she depicts; you can be sure that every choice, from the dialogue to the cinematography to the editing, was the choice that most purely highlighted the mindset of a confused and directionless 22-year-old.

I enjoyed the film more for the dialogue than for any other major aspect. Lena is a talented young screenwriter, in my opinion. Although the literary and cultural references peppered throughout the film were ham-handed (to put it modestly), and there was enough character pretention to indulge in seconds, I found the dialogue’s lack of closure to be completely refreshing. Oftentimes, my generation can be fooled into believing and expecting there to be a great sense of conclusion with almost anything, most specifically in films. Rarely does the twenty-something crowd gravitate towards ambiguity; we most appreciate resolution – a sense of clean finality that does not leave us craving.

Contemplate the meaning of the film, and of this amazing GIF.

Tiny Furniture serves a dual purpose: to show us that what we know is extremely influential and not always beneficial, and that what we don’t know is not to be discouragement. The greatest problem that Aura faces throughout the film is that she is trying to figure things out. Although sometimes she feels like a failure for this, it is not so. She will shape her own character through her experiences; the audience is allowed to share in Aura’s mistakes and accomplishments in the journey to finding herself.

Lena Dunham is not an amateur filmmaker, although she is still young. As an aspiring filmmaker myself, this is of great relief to me. This film, in my opinion, is a great resource for young people in that the character of a filmmaker is not masked by the final outcome of the film. Our adolescent experiences and sufferings are not blotches on our otherwise admirable track records; instead, they can be used as a most unadulterated form of artistic expression.

Rating: B-

Official Trailer