Sarah Polley hangs out a big friendly welcome sign from Toronto to you in her new film Take This Waltz.
She makes the city warm and inviting, strange and mysterious. You want to hop a bus or a train or an airplane and go there and do what the characters do – read Brick, watch The National, carry around an old book bag from Pages, go to Centre Island for the Scrambler, ride on a rickshaw along College to the Royal, have a coffee at Kensington Market.
Polley’s male lead Seth Rogen is a chef, specializing in chicken, but what she the director and writer serves up is Toronto with tree-lined streets, trolley cars, wooden doors, front porches and Christmas lights. With assistance from her cinematographer Luc Montpellier, who also enhanced the look of Polley’s Oscar-nominated Away From Her, she pours a “humid, sexy sun” like honey onto the screen. She remakes Toronto into a tropical city.
She also has Feist sing the sexiest, sultriest, slowest burn of Leonard Cohen’s Closing Time you’ve ever heard and, of course, has Lenny himself sing the song that inspired the movie – “Take This Waltz.” Music and cinematography mesh seamlessly in a film that happens in a particular Toronto summer, shot mostly in west-end neighbourhoods in Little Portugal, as much imaginatively recreated as realistically rendered.
In an interview with Chris Knight in The National Post, Polley describes the film as dealing with “the feeling of emptiness and what we do with that.” The female lead, portrayed brilliantly by Michelle Williams, steps in and out of her scenes restlessly, as hesitant and ambivalent as a school girl. She wants more out of life than she’s getting but doesn’t know what “more” might look like. She seems adrift and unmoored until she meets a soulful and emotionally-giving rickshaw driver played adroitly by Luke Kirby.
Do we have rickshaws in Toronto? Yes, maybe on the main streets, but on the side streets as well? For a moment I felt transported to Saigon or Hong Kong.
So what do you do with emptiness? A character played by Sarah Silverman says, “Life has a gap in it. It just does. You don’t go around trying to fill it like a lunatic.” But that makes the film sound a little too didactic, which it isn’t. Take This Waltz shows and tells, but it doesn’t judge.
In a beautiful shower scene in one of Toronto’s pools with many of the main female characters mixed in with strangers, Polley shows “women who were young not being particularly sexy and… older women’s bodies… and to not really comment on it, to just let it kind of be.” She says this to Chris Knight and adds, “I felt that it really spoke to what the film is about.”
– By J.S. Porter
The trailer to ‘Take this Waltz’ below: