Take This Waltz is beautiful maddening and sexy just like its protagonist Margot (Michelle Williams). Margot speaks like a toddler to her husband Lou (Seth Rogen). She's moody but playful and she has cutesy and symbolic neuroses like insisting on taking a wheelchair at the airport because trying to make her flight is the sort of limbo that makes her anxious. As she explains to a handsome stranger named Daniel (Luke Kirby) she's afraid of connections she's afraid she'll get lost and no one will ever find her. Almost everything about her is childish from her bright yellow raincoat to her junior high insults ("retard " "gaylord") to her shrieking embarrassment when she pees in the pool during a water exercise class.
"What's the matter with you " asks Daniel "generally?" That's the crux of the movie. What is the matter with Margot? Even Margot doesn't know the root of her restlessness. It seems the only person willing to call her on it is her sister-in-law Geraldine an alcoholic in recovery who is already anticipating her own failure.
Take This Waltz relies heavily on chance and metaphor but the emotional intensity can make you willing to take that leap. Williams carries the film as Margot while Rogen gets an excellent chance to show his emotional side as Lou a lovable bear of a man. Kirby plays Daniel with an easy heady sexuality that makes Margot's decision understandably difficult. Sarah Silverman drops her bad girl comedian persona and really shines as acerbic but insightful Geraldine.
After Daniel and Margot meet at a historic village (she's rewriting the tour book for the tourist destination and he's who knows a fan of colonial history) Daniel is seated next to her on the plane. He also happens to live down the street from her and Lou. By the time he's began to wonder what Margot's deal really is they're knee deep in a heated emotional affair. Their attraction is immediate and palpable an irresistible force felt off screen. Daniel verbally consummates their affair with an unforgettably hot monologue.
Lou on the other hand isn't quite on the same page as Margot when it comes to their sex life or future children. He's knee-deep in a chicken cookbook so the couple and their family and friends eat almost nothing but different chicken dishes at every mean. You can only eat so much chicken right? Daniel on the other hand is new. "New things are shiny " Geraldine tells her in the communal gym shower as the women are soaping up after that pool incident. "New things get old " comments a woman nearby. This is one of the strongest scenes in the movie where women of all ages shapes and colors scrub down unapologetically and talk amongst themselves in a private/public space.
Take This Waltz is a more realistic portrayal of an erratic young woman who in a different writer's hands would be one of those Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Even though Margot wears adorable onesies and has the playfulness of a child she also hurts a lot of people and is screwed up for no apparent reason. It's not always clear why these men are attracted to her and you can tell they aren't sure themselves but it's interesting and painful to watch it all unfold. Take This Waltz is beautifully shot full of buttery sunlight and lush parks and sweetly decorated abodes. Polley rolled the dice on a difficult protagonist and comes up a winner.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
With so many flicks in the dance genre from classics like Flashdance and Fame to more recent entries like Step Up Save the Last Dance and Stomp the Yard as well as numerous popular TV dance competitions the Wayans Brothers are right in thinking there’s material ripe for riffing here. So in Dance Flick we get a young street dancer Thomas Uncles (get it?) who meets a gorgeous white chick named Megan White (get it?) and they team up for the ultimate in dance-offs as they become part of a “crew” that battles the baddies to take the title and repay Thomas’ debt to Sugar Bear an enormous loan shark and drug lord.
WHO’S IN IT?
In the lead roles of Thomas and Megan Damon Wayans Jr. and Shoshana Bush are naturals in the comedy department — if not exactly convincing as dance champs. Most of Dance Flick’s laughs come courtesy of the supporting players particularly Essence Atkins as Megan’s confidante and Amy Sedaris (TV’s Strangers With Candy) as a teacher who likes to verbally torment her students while wearing extremely tight and revealing pants. The rest of the film is swarming with stereotypes including Brennan Hillard doing a gay take-off on Zac Efron’s High School Musical character (including a swishy production number to the tune of Fame); Chelsea Makela as the compact and chubby Tracy Transfat (lifted directly from Hairspray’s energetic teenage lead) and Affion Crockett as A-Con a guy who aspires to be a criminal when he’s not getting all jiggy. Then of course there is the bitchy adversary for Megan played to the hilt by Christina Murphy. Best of all is the imposing Sugar Bear played by In Living Color vet David Alan Grier in a 400-pound fat suit who first does a send-up of Jennifer Hudson’s showstopping number from Dreamgirls “And I Am Telling You ” then later tops that with a killer spotlight dance in the big competition sequence. In addition to Damon Jr. we counted nine additional Wayans in various cameos.
The actual dance numbers including the big two that bookend the film are hilarious over-the-top and cleverly choreographed for ultimate comedic impact. The special effects and stunt teams clearly worked overtime on some of these moves. Sporadic moments of witty invention come along in between those set pieces but the jokes are stale and uninspired for the most part.
Clearly director Damien Wayans and his all-Wayans writing and producing team (Keenan Ivory Marlon Shawn and Craig) cracked themselves up when creating these gags but the hit-to-miss ratio is about to two-to-one on the negative side. And by the time the endlessly padded slow-motion end credits roll after just 75 minutes of this stuff the spoof has completely run out of gas resorting to lame gags about non-dance flicks like Twilight and the Samuel L. Jackson flop Black Snake Moan.
BEST SUPPORTING WAYANS?
Hands-down the small comic gems that work best all belong to Shawn Wayans as Baby Daddy who is easily the worst father in cinema history. His bits rock.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Netflix. Rent it and fast forward through the really REALLY dumb stuff to get to the really dumb stuff quicker.