Friday, July 13, 2012

A Priest Reviews "Take This Waltz"

There is a new film that debuts nationally this week that I thought I'd share a review of for several reasons - a) I've seen it  b) there isn't a review on the bishops' website yet  and c) it got 3.5 stars in the paper this morning and so some Catholics might be wondering about whether to check it out.

I should briefly explain how I came to see it.  I've said before how I watch all the movie trailers of upcoming films to get a sense of what is out there - plus trailers are usually pretty safe, morally speaking.  I really loved the trailer for "Take This Waltz" mostly because of a song in the background from Canadian artist Jason Collett titled "Rave on Sad Songs."  Check out the trailer here if you are interested



Then one day at the rectory a month or so ago (on my day off of course!) I came across a feature on our cable package that had movies which weren't in theaters yet that you could buy, and seeing "Take This Waltz" as an option, I decided to rent it.

Without offering spoilers (yet) Michelle Williams' character Margot has been married to Seth Rogen's character Lou (both do a GREAT job as actors with Rogen taking a very solid and humble role and breaking from his typical stoner/sex-crazed stock character).  The film does a great job of portraying what statistics bare out - that after the first few years of romantic attraction in a marriage, it gets more difficult to keep the fire burning.  In fact the films opening scene conveys this without words - Margot is cooking in the kitchen, and we see in the background her husband Lou walk in and go to the sink.  Margot comes up from behind him and hugs him, and his unresponsiveness and her disappointment are both very palpable.  The couple continues to try and awkwardly figure out how to communicate love, how to be romantic with one another amidst every day life...the film does a really fine job of showing the difficulties (and joys) of the work that is required from both spouses to make a marriage work. 

The relationship between Margot and Lou is strained when Margot meets a starving artist neighbor Daniel, and most of the film focuses on Margot's attempts to fight the urge to have an affair with Daniel even in the midst of the ongoing struggles to try to understand her husband's moods, quirks, etc.  

Before addressing what follows in the rest of the film (including some graphic nudity) let me say there is one group of people for whom I WOULD recommend the film - people who are married who are struggling, and especially those who are thinking about leaving their marriage for someone else. 

(spoiler alert) After an hour+ of Margot trying to fight her urge to have a romp with Daniel, she finally breaks down, and she leaves her husband Lou.  What follows is a really graphic scene (which a viewer can look away from) in which Margot and Daniel engage in the marital act.  The camera spins around the room and the scenes change in the bedroom as the seasons change in the windows - the point being that Daniel and Margot, over the course of about a year, throw every inhibition out the window and give in and take from one another everything they want and desire.  Of course this scene would likely make it an "O" by the bishops, but I'm not sure.

The film ends with a very important shot.  After all the romance of the affair has run its course, Margot is in the kitchen.  Daniel comes in and goes to the sink, and Margot goes to hug him, but Daniel (just like her husband in the beginning) is unresponsive...the obvious point being that she's right back where she started the film with the romantic fire having cooled in a relationship (as it always does) once again.   The scene conveys the whole point of the movie - love is more than sex and marriage is more than sex.  It may be that the movie makes this point in an unacceptably graphic way for most viewers (had I known about all of the nudity I wouldn't have watched it) but I would say, again, if anyone out there is considering an affair - watch this movie. 

The film teaches the same lesson that the Church and others have constantly been saying and encouraging married couples (and those prepping for marriage) - the limiting element, again, would be the way it was made. 

"Take This Waltz" is a briefly very graphic antidote to the whole romantic love message that is typically shoved down our throats by Hollywood (do what feels good, do what makes you happy in the moment, if it feels good it can't be wrong); my hope is that Hollywood and filmmakers everywhere continue to preach the message of "Take This Waltz", but that they also look for more modest ways to convey the message.