TAKE THIS WALTZ
Written and Directed by: Sarah Polley
Starring: Michelle Williams, Luke Kirby, Seth Rogen, and Sarah Silverman
The grass is always greener, taking the road less traveled… these well trodden sayings are explored and tested in writer-director Sarah Polley’s new film, TAKE THIS WALTZ. This poignant romantic drama takes a decidedly non-judgmental look at the cracks in one young woman’s marriage.
Whilst out on a writing assignment in a small Canadian seaside town, Margot (Michelle Williams) shares a very brief encounter with Daniel (Luke Kirby). However, the two don’t really hit it off until they bump into each other again during a connecting flight. Margot is in wheelchair, and when he confronts her about it, she confesses her deepest fear: She’s afraid of missed connections. While she says she fears the worry of missing the flight rather than the physical act of missing the flight, the audience can sense it goes deeper than that – she’s afraid of letting opportunity pass her by. This will be the foundation of her journey.
Not only do the two share an immediate emotional connection, they share a cab ride home where it’s discovered they are neighbors. Margot, fearing the jig is up, blurts out she’s married and runs off. But as the days roll on by – and her husband, Lou (Seth Rogen), continues to rebuff her sexual advances in favor of perfecting his chicken recipes – she finds herself obsessing about her sexy (practically) stranger. Unbeknownst to Lou (but obvious to the rest of us), their marriage is on the brink of collapse when Margot’s fight or flight coping mechanism takes hold. It’s only natural that Margot will be drawn to the man she can’t have; however, as she’s explicitly warned by a pool aerobics classmate, “New things get old.”
TAKE THIS WALTZ completely gutted me with its final act. It grabs hold of your heart and doesn’t let go. Williams embodies her character’s hurt, rejection, and yearning unlike any other actress of her generation. Thanks to her performance, viewers will have an immediate reaction to her – either with empathy or anger. Even though it would seem she purposely chooses the most inopportune times to attempt to seduce Lou (when she knows he’ll snub her), you still feel terrible when he rejects her advances. She makes you feel for Margot’s relatable struggles and makes you cry when she not only questions and confronts her debilitating fears, but also when history begins to repeat itself.
With this, her sophomore directorial feature, Polley (who directed the critically acclaimed AWAY FROM HER) proves she is a talented filmmaker with a strong voice. WALTZ’s story is a sweet, slow build to the climactic emotional third act. While the pace allows the audience to fall in love and properly connect to Margot’s journey, it may strike some as too leisurely and cause them to tune out. Refreshingly, the film never demonizes any of its characters – even though it has ample chances to do so. Lou isn’t the stereotypical rude, dumb husband. Lou’s sister, Geraldine (Sarah Silverman) is a recovering alcoholic mother who’s going through problems of her own. Even interloper Daniel comes across as a respectful gentleman not out to wreck Margot’s marriage. These are real people with authentic problems.
Luc Montpellier’s cinematography is sparking and effused with such warmth and reverence for the subjects he’s capturing. I haven’t seen a more beautiful scene in a film this year than Margot and Daniel’s ride on the Scrambler, set to The Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star.” It’s a stunning vision, and when the song gets cut short and fluorescent lights come on, waves of disappointment smack you in the face.
The film raises a few thought-provoking questions, mainly “Is an emotional affair worse than a physical one?” The complexities of marriage are put on display and raw emotion is what follows. While you may alternate between love and hate for Margot’s actions, allow yourself to be swept away by this film’s staggering and gut wrenching beauty.
TAKE THIS WALTZ is now available On Demand and on iTunes. It opens in New York on June 29 and Los Angeles on July 6 (at The Landmark and Town Center 5).