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The shower scene lingers in my mind

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What is there about the bodies of grown-up women that is so scary and off-putting that Hollywood doesn’t dare showing them?

Their absence on the screen is so common that I’ve started to take it for granted. There are certain things you don’t show, because they’re considered shameful, ugly or controversial. And a normal, non-photoshopped, non-surgically improved female body belongs to this category.

Maybe that’s why I was so taken aback by a very short scene in the new Canadian movie Take This Waltz, where the main character is having a shower at the bathhouse after attending a training class in the basin.

It wasn’t Michelle William’s nakedness that made me startled. I’ve seen her in other movies and she looks like a generic young and beautiful film star. What was so remarkable and refreshing about this scene was the other women that were around her. You see: they looked like women actually look.

Here they were, women of all ages, of all shapes with bodies that had given birth to and fed babies, bodies that had lived a life that had left traces on them like tattoos, telling their stories. No one joked about their bodies. No one even commented about them, not in the terms of being sexy or not being sexy. Even if they filled the screen, they weren’t the main focus. They just were there, uncommented.

The view on older women
It turned out that the scene was made that way on purpose, kind of an act of defiance against the current norm. The director Sarah Polley commented on it in an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered:

“I feel like with young women, their bodies are constantly objectified and used in a sexual context. With older women, [their bodies are] constantly the butt of a joke. For me, the seminal scene that illustrates that is, in About Schmidt, when Kathy Bates gets into the hot tub and Jack Nicholson is horrified and the audience is supposed to scream.

“I remember being so deeply offended by that scene. One of the first times you’re dealing with an older woman being naked in a movie — it doesn’t happen very often — and it’s the butt of a joke, or it’s supposed to horrifying. [In a shower-room scene in Take This Waltz] I wanted to show women’s bodies of all ages, kind of without comment, and the only conversation around it is about time passing and what it means, and about sexuality and relationships. That it not be something contrived to produce an effect, necessarily.”

A memorable quote
Ryan McNeil at The Matineecast always asks his guest to name one thing that they take from the movie they’ve just reviewed. If you asked me to take one thing from Take this Waltz, it would be this shower scene, which gave me a well needed reminder that I need to get to terms with my own body and aging, not succumbing to the pressure we put on ourselves as we make comparisons to ridiculous and unobtainable ideals.

I’d also keep a quote, a line said by Geraldine, an alcoholic who tries to convey what life has taught her:

“Life has a gap in it… It just does. You don’t go crazy trying to fill it.”

There you are – something to contemplate for all of us who are perpetually stuck in something we imagine is a middle-age crisis.

A forgettable film
I wish I had more nice things to say about Take This Waltz, but sadly I don’t.

On the whole it’s a forgettable movie about a couple in their 30s experiencing a crisis in their marriage as the woman one day lays her eyes on their sexy neighbor. Infidelity and other marital problems often make good topics for movies, but this one fails to grab me emotionally for several reasons.

The biggest problem is probably that I don’t care very much for the people in it – especially not for Michelle William’s character, which I find rather annoying. Another issue could be that there isn’t all that much at stake – no children, no one suffering from a lethal disease, nothing that makes a divorce truly complicated and painful.

When the conflict finally is brought up to the surface, the film doesn’t do as much of it as you would expect from this kind of film. Seth Rogen isn’t even allowed to say anything; his part is limited to a row of funny faces. Compared to the infinitely deep chasms explored in movies such as Scenes from a Marriage or The Squid and the Whale, this feels like a breeze.

The image of the shower lingers in my mind though. It’s a pity I couldn’t find a screenshot of it as an illustration to this post. Not that I’m surprised.

Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley, CA, 2012) My rating: 3/5

Written by Jessica

August 7, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Take This Waltz