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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

DVD+Digital: Michelle Williams, love stories and Take This Waltz

Posted by on Wed, Oct 24, 2012 at 10:05 AM

In Take This Waltz, a quietly brilliant romantic drama from Canadian actress and director Sarah Polley, we find ourselves in the colorful hipster neighborhoods of urban Toronto. Young married couple Margot and Lou (Michelle Williams and Seth Rogan) have an easy, playful banter around the house, but there are awkward pauses and sudden silences. All is not well.

Margot leaves town for a work gig — she's a copywriter, he's a chef — and meets soulful, sexy artist Daniel (Luke Kirby). On the plane back home to Toronto, Daniel and Margot start crushing on each other, and it turns out they're neighbors, too. Margot begins sneaking peeks at Daniel from her upstairs window and the next thing you know they're sharing martinis at 2 pm at the neighborhood restaurant, initiating the world's oldest dance.

Take This Waltz starts out slow and awkward — just like love! — then gets interesting and complex. The self-conscious dialogue in the film's first half establishes itself as a deliberate style in the second half, as director Polley colors in the corners of her world. Color, in fact, is a big part of the visual strategy in the movie. The bright, blown-out palette lends a subtle intensity, reflecting the potent emotions bubbling up from within the characters. Watch for the colors that surround Daniel, and the ones that surround poor old Lou. Then consider the colors, and the patterns, Margot wears.

Director Polley — you might know her from Atom Etoygan's 1997 film The Sweet Hereafter or 2009's genetics horror story Splice — wrote the script herself. Her feature debut as a director, Away from Her in 2006, also explores a marriage in jeopardy. She's a pretty fearless filmmaker when it comes to rooting around in affairs of the heart.

The domestic scenes between Margot and Lou ring with authenticity. Other sequences aren't quite as successful — the x-rated dialogue in the martini scene, the underwater seduction. Everything centers on Williams' performance, which is proficient and courageous. Her vulnerability is made literal, probably too literal, in several lingering scenes of full nudity.

The film's final half hour maps some territories I've never seen before in a romantic drama. In a series of twists, the story switches back on itself in unexpected fashion, and the movie's last image is total perfection. Polley has made a beautiful film here, heartfelt and rigorously honest.

Extras: The DVD/Blu-ray adds a single Making Of doc unavailable in the digital download format. I'd recommend seeing this one in high-def if you can — Blu-ray or the HD download.

Also New This Week:

Criterion has reissued the 1971 British drama Sunday Bloody Sunday, from director John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy). The film — about a bisexual love triangle among Londoners Peter Finch, Glenda Jackson and Murray Head — was considered quite transgressive at the time, and was nominated for four Academy Awards. Both the DVD and Blu-ray editions feature new interviews, archival footage and a booklet of critical essays.

Director Steven Soderburgh is capable of making bad movies (Full Frontal), but he doesn't make uninteresting ones. Magic Mike stars beefcake wunderkind Channing Tatum in a musical celebration of male stripping. Right this way, ladies.

From the author who brought you Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes the genre mashup Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, which proves yet again that one joke can go a long way in showbiz. Screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith adapts his own book, with Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch) directing.

Steve Carrell and Keira Knightly star as two strangers with three weeks to live — there's an asteroid headed for Earth — in the apocalyptic romantic comedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

Tyler Perry returns with the franchise comedy and possessive apostrophe festival Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection.

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The quietly brilliant romantic drama from actress and director Sarah Polley takes a long hard look at love and marriage.

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