Ted and Take This Waltz: A Natural PairingPosted by cinefile
Ted (2012), directed by Seth MacFarlane
Take This Waltz (2011), directed by Sarah Polley
I recognize that these are two pretty strange films to look at side by side. But I saw them both this weekend and I’m going to squeeze out some potentially thin thematic connections. Mainly though, I only had time to write one post. Anyway, don’t give me any grief about it.
I went into Ted with high hopes for an outrageous, stupid, foul-mouthed, immature blow out. With MacFarlane at the helm I figured it wouldn’t disappoint. I was wrong.
Here’s my main problem with Ted, and really, with a lot of MacFarlane products. While on one hand it tries to be subversive by making fun of everything and tearing popular culture a new one, it also revels in pop culture, which unfortunately in this means framing the crude, unusual humour in a plot that is so cliched, overwrought and overbearing (pun intended) that it ends up ruining the humour.
I mean, really MacFarlane? A story about an immature man having trouble growing up with a shrew of a girlfriend riding his back to be more of a responsible adult?
I don’t find the use of the word “fag” offensive in MacFarlane movies, because it’s used so ubiquitously that you know he’s doing it to get a rise out of you. For some reason I can appreciate that. It’s intentional and flies in the face of political correctness. It may be discomforting but it’s supposed to be. I like immature humour.
But to have all that in such a weak sauce plot really ruins the whole thing. Could MacFarlane really find nothing better for Mila Kunis to do than give Wahlberg a hard time and demand he stop being friends with his cool, talking Teddy Bear? Could we not find anything more interesting for this plot to revolve around than a guy struggling to stop just smoking weed everyday and become an “adult”?
It’s just such a tired premise. And MacFarlane does nothing new with it. Having that same old story only with a living Teddy Bear doesn’t offer any new perspective or comment or joke on the same old story. It’s just the same old story. With a Teddy Bear.
That said, I still somewhat liked it. The bear is hilarious, I love Wahlberg in comedies, all the Flash Gordon stuff is great. There are some genuinely funny moments and lines. It should have been a fantastic comedy.
But then there’s the rest, including the tacked on, ridiculous kidnap plot with Giovanni Ribisi. I don’t know, it just kind of ruined the whole thing for me.
And so that brings us to this movie’s opposite. The very serious, meticulously crafted, mature Take This Waltz.
Surprisingly it’s better than Ted. That is such a snob thing to say, but if you knew how much I wanted Ted to be better than Take This Waltz you might not see me as a snob. Unfortunately this review might solidify that view.
Take This Waltz is Canadian treasure (and serious CineFile crush) Sarah Polley’s second directorial effort, after the much applauded Away From Her. It stars Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen as a young married couple in tough times. In comes dark, handsome Luke Kirby as Daniel to get Williams all riled up. Things get complicated.
This is a very bittersweet movie. It’s bitter because it’s all about relationships failing and a young woman who just can’t seem to be happy. It’s sweet because you understand what she is feeling and you like the characters and how honest they are with each other. At the end of the day though it’s mainly frustrating.
It’s a beautifully filmed movie, and with a wonderfully careful, honest look at relationships that really touches a note. The performances are complex and rich. Williams is fabulous as a character that you may not like, but will probably understand and sympathize with.
I know I didn’t like her. She does nothing to help herself. She relies totally on the men in her life to make her happy. She barely works. She acts like a needy child, which as Rogen’s character shows, can be both endearing and also incredibly annoying and frustrating. She means well but doesn’t seem to have the capacity to know how to function in life. I wondered at times if she wasn’t slightly disabled.
I think some will have trouble getting past that. But I don’t think the movie owed us a character we like wholeheartedly. I enjoyed aspects of her, but even with her frustrating personality traits I still felt sorry for her and took away a lot from her relationships with men and friends and life. There’s a needy, childish, unsatisfied little Michelle Williams in all of us I guess. And at the same time all the other characters are imperfect. And that makes them compelling and relatable.
I really liked this movie, all told. Polley is a wonderful director with a great eye for visuals and a deep understanding of characters and tone. It’s an immersive experience, watching it, and one that you feel the better for having gone through. Even if, at the same time, you kind of want to jump off a bridge.
That said, it was a little long and could have used a little more humour.
In a perfect world they would have combined Ted and Take This Waltz. That way it would have been an interesting movie with a compelling plot AND have a talking Teddy Bear.
I warned you there would be weak links in this review.
Both movies are in theatres now.