Review: Take this Waltz
PLOT: Margot and Lou are a happily married couple. However, the two have lost their passion and excitement. He is constantly working on a new cookbook while she longs for romance and desire. That feeling burns again when she meets a handsome artist who lives just across the street. Soon Margot finds herself falling for her neighbor as her husband begins to question whether or not his wife has been faithful to him.
Sarah Polleys latest directorial effort is not an easy watch. For the first half we witness a seemingly happy woman as she begins to lose interest in her husband. The object of her affection is a handsome artist who lives across the street. One sequence has a LADY CHATTERLEYS LOVER sort of energy as she watches her newest obsession. She takes in his arms, his legs and the way he moves all the while she has her loving husband by her side. The womans name is Margot and she is played with a quiet force by Michelle Williams arguably one of the finest actresses of her generation. Her husband Lou is a surprisingly subtle and sweet Seth Rogen in a terrific performance. And then there is Luke Kirby as Daniel, the one that has fallen for a married woman.
The intimacy that transpires between Margot and Lou is at times frustrating and others, painstakingly charming. In order to share their love, they speak of violent and disturbing things theyd like to do to each other, like slice off the others skin with a potato peeler. Perhaps it is just me, but there is nothing romantic or whimsical about the bizarre wordplay between the two. Yet the underlying care they do feel is clear in the simple ways they exist in each others space. For this, it is unnerving to watch Margot fall for another man. As good looking as Daniel may be, Lou is so utterly likable that it makes her adulterous thoughts all the more upsetting.
In one scene early on, Margot asks what Daniel would like to do to her. He tells her in great detail that hed like to f*ck her, every part of her. In this he becomes the answer to the boredom she clearly feels from her humdrum existence. While the affair remains innocent for some time, it begins to blossom into something that will be terrible for all those involved. Well, maybe just for Lou at the moment. Polleys strength is that she has written Margot not as a victim, but as someone who knowingly betrays the trust of her spouse. Whether it is naiveté or stupidity, she cant seem to help herself in those uncomfortable moments with this new and exciting person in her life. Add to that she is a little bit insane.
Earlier I had mentioned that this is a tough watch for the first part. The issue is simply that it is very difficult to support Margot. She goes from one extreme to the other and she seems to make trouble for everybody including herself. Williams is not afraid of this and she has the ability to go from uncontrollable laughter to pain streaked tears. She is fearless in the role as she is completely naked both figuratively and literally at times and she doesnt shy away from the ugliness that Margot possesses. If anything she is both hero and villain in this story and that is a tricky role to play. However, it was exhausting to feel any sort of interest as the dialogue was a little too clever and the constant use of indie rock started to wear thin in the beginning. Thankfully things do improve during the last half.
Perhaps the audience is meant to be tested by the filmmaker. Her intention may be to disconnect with Margot just as her leading lady has with her husband and his family including a strong performance by Sarah Silverman as Lous alcoholic sister. As maddening as TAKE THIS WALTZ started out, something happened when it was clear that she may act on her feelings for Daniel. It is then that the blossoming romance takes a slice of reality and we see the cost of betrayal. In one of the most impressive sequences in the film we see the progression of Daniel and Margots wild relationship as Leonard Cohens Take This Waltz plays and it beautifully states what we already know, or at least what we think we know.
Sarah Polley is a uniquely gifted writer/director. She sneaks into this world with an intimacy that is incredibly uncomfortable at times. There is no desire to make a Hollywood type story where we must be rooting for the leading lady. At times it was downright depressing to watch her as she sinks into self-pity and blind romance. This was a brave choice to make for Polley, even if it occasionally takes away the emotional impact of this love triangle. Thankfully Williams takes on the challenge unflinchingly as her Margot makes the choices that she feels are best for her whether they are the right choices is another story altogether. While TAKE THIS WALTZ may take some time to start the dance, it finds its footing as it begins to tell Margot, Lou and Daniels story for better or worse.