Take This Waltz is the latest from writer/director Sarah Polley and it is a very interesting film.
“Margot” (Michelle Williams) is married, a writer, and at the opening of the movie is away from home on an assignment to re-write a brochure for a tourist destination. The attraction takes people back into the past to the time when people were flogged on the streets and we see one such flogging (the actor isn’t really being harmed) when Margot is invited to take over the whip. She tries to be demure but is egged on by a man in the crowd.
We learn later that he is “Daniel” (Luke Kirby) and the two find themselves seated next to each other on the plane ride home. When he asks Margot why she boarded the plane while in a wheelchair, she makes an excuse about her health that he knows is false. He confronts her with the evidence and she admits she hates the thought of missing a connection and that’s what she is afraid of. But it becomes clear that she’s really afraid of being “caught in-between.”
This is major theme of Take This Waltz.
They end up sharing a taxi-ride home and she discovers that Daniel lives across the street from the house where she and her husband “Lou” (Seth Rogen) live. She didn’t mention being married until just before they part, and it’s clear they will meet again.
Lou is also a writer, but a writer of cookbooks and he’s working on his latest project. As a result, he is focused on his work. But there’s also something off about their relationship. How they communicate, and how they interact seems not quite right. We’re introduced to some of his family members, most notably his sister, “Geraldine” (Sarah Silverman) who is very close to Margot. Geraldine is also married, and is the mother of an adorable child. She’s also an alcoholic in recovery and in fact, one of the social occasions that takes place in the home of Lou and Margot is to celebrate the anniversary of her sobriety.
Margot and Daniel begin spending time together, stolen moments that Lou is not aware of. She’s clearly attracted to this man, but has no intention of being unfaithful to her husband. That doesn’t stop her from engaging in what some might call “emotional infidelity” with Daniel. She also talks about the idea of a new man with Geraldine, most notably in a scene where she, Geraldine and another friend were engaged in water aerobics, until Margot has a little ‘mishap’ in the pool. Afterwards, in a scene where the women from the class are all in the locker room showers (an open bay style shower rather than the private stalls in modern locker rooms, resulting in an extended amount of full frontal nudity) and the trio discusses the benefits of a new romance.
When the moment comes where Daniel and Margot are about to finally make love, she panics and bolts. But that doesn’t stop Lou from becoming aware of what’s been going on, and in a moment of unexpected character and strength, he tells Margot she should just leave.
Polley’s work behind the lens is adequate and there are even some interesting visuals, but most of what we see is not all that extraordinary. However she has a nuance for dialogue and this is the strength of Take This Waltz. Lou saying “sometimes what you do in life sticks” was very strong.
One of the “truisms” of love is that it is much more about showing someone you love them than it is about saying it. This is an area in which Margot and Lou are struggling with their love. They say they love each other often, although sometimes in unusual ways. But how they act and how they show that love is something else entirely. Polley shows the audience how the dysfunction between what one says and what one does will cause a relationship to deteriorate, even when both parties ultimately want it to remain intact.
Extra points for use of “Video Kills the Radio Star” in a modern movie.