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Reel Toronto: Take This Waltz

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

When this column started, there were virtually no quality movies actually set in Toronto. We’d come across the odd Silent Partner amidst all the faux Bostons and New Yorks we see so often, but that was about it. Well, that’s changed in recent years, with the likes of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Chloe, and, most recently, Take This Waltz.

Sarah Polley’s sophomore flick debuted at TIFF last year and finally hit theatres earlier this summer to much acclaim. (It’s worth noting that while Chloe got more of a mixed reaction, its wintry Toronto makes a fine double bill alongside Polley’s sweltering, colour-saturated city. Both involve marital infidelity so they’re sort of like weird mirror images of each other.)

Sometimes we feel a bit guilty doing Toronto films since it’s more of a tour than a detective enterprise. But Take This Waltz is still a tour worth taking. After a prologue set in Nova Scotia, Michelle Williams and Luke Kirby naturally arrive at Pearson airport…

…and take a cab into the city.

While she gives the cabbie a fictional address (“McLaughlin Crescent, near Queen and Dufferin”), her house is actually at 62 Mackenzie Crescent.

Luke Kirby lives (in a nice house, actually, for an artiste/rickshaw driver) just across the street, here.

Since we already mentioned Polley’s use of colour, we’ll demonstrate here just how deftly it’s used. Note that at the beginning of the movie the house seems to be in the midst of being painted. Williams is wearing a red shirt and the house’s left-hand pillar is painted yellow…

…at the end, when she comes to attend to a family crisis, the colours are reversed. What does it all mean? Something artsy, is what! Do we have to explain everything?

Anyway, the film is very west-end centric, but sometimes the geography doesn’t entirely make sense. We’re not nitpicking; pointing out this stuff is why we get the big bucks! So, like, she runs into Kirby one morning and they go for an early coffee. Apparently there were no shops open between their neighbourhood and Kensington Market, because they hike all the way over to Essence of Life Organics.

When they later decide to go for martinis, they end up at The Lakeview, which is hardly the most obvious place to go. But, it’s cool (and friendly to film crews), local enough, and has those milkshake machines that go with the film’s colour palette.

You can see the bar a bit better here.

Probably the biggest leap is accepting that every morning, before starting his rickshawing, Kirby goes down to the lake. It’s not too far of a hike down to the Ontario Place area, but apparently he goes all the way to Kew Beach.

Later in the movie, they enjoy the sunrise on a bench together.

And what a lovely sunrise it is.

In one sultry little scene he follows her along College Street, past the Orbit Room…

…and then she gets on a streetcar, to somehow arrive at this pool…

…which, also seen here, is at the Trinity CRC.

The adjacent park gets a shout out in this picnic scene. In fact, geography-wise, it’s a little weird their day would start down in the Beach, come way up to Trinity Bellwoods for lunch…

…and then go back down to the lake for a trip across to Centre Island and a ride on the Scrambler at Centreville. Even if it’s not entirely sensible, you have to concede it’s a fun way for a semi-employed hipster and a semi-employed freelance journalist to spend the day.

Poor Seth Rogen! Dude kicks ass in the movie but he seems to spend all of his scenes in the house. Luckily, he does get one nice date night with his wife. They get a rickshaw ride that takes them out to College Street

…and then down to Queen Street West, for some reason, past Book City (note that this location has since closed)…

…and then back up to College Street for a night at the Royal Cinema. And it’s playing Mon oncle Antoine, which is cool and only slightly less overtly Canuck than if it were a double bill of The Sweater and Goin’ Down the Road.

Then they enjoy a nice dinner at La Perla.

All in all, Take This Waltz provides a deliciously lovely tour of a hipsterrific Toronto. It’s well worth seeing before summer is over.

CORRECTION: August 26, 2012, 11:50 PM This article originally stated that the scene where Williams’ and Rogen’s characters eat dinner takes place at Perla, on College Street. The restaurant is actually La Perla, on Queen Street West, as now stated above.


  • PlantinMoretus

    Honestly, this looks like a real wrist-slitter. I go to the movies to see things I *don’t* see every day.

    • Neville Ross

      Same here, that’s why most of my film going is in the fantasy/sci-fi genre.

  • riley

    Nice! One little fix though, they go to dinner at ‘LA Perla’ on Queen St West above Milagro, not Perla on College.

    • Laura Godfrey

      You’re right! Thanks for catching that—the correction has been made.

  • Rick

    Where was the apartment they settled in?

  • Joe Clark

    Column, dear, not “pillar.”

  • Anonymous

    I saw Ms. Williams chilling out at The Tampered Press back in summer 2010, most likely between takes at the Lakeview. I was working on my laptop in a corner but kept thinking, “Gosh, that girl looks just like Michelle Williams. Spitting image.” When I overheard her talking about what time she puts Matilda to bed, I realized it really was her. Along with hundreds of others, I later saw the College Street rickshaw filming, too. It was pretty interesting, to be honest.

  • Anonymous

    I’d love to see you guys tackle “Last Night” – a bit on an hommage to the 2012 end of the world, no doubt?

  • Anonymous

  • Porcelaine

    Scene in Kensington Market appears to have been shot in the morning. Light source form the east illuminating her back, east side of Kensington Ave. is in shadow.

  • Dalia

    Yay!! I was looking for the locations! :) I’m going to visit because of this movie :) I’m so excited! going there next november :)