Sarah Polley‘s sophomore directorial effort stars an unlikely couple, Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen, in what seems to be a whimsical Canadian indie comedy. But Take This Waltz is not entirely as it seems.
Margot (Williams) is happily married to Lou (Rogen), an aspiring cookbook writer. When she meets the straight-forward and uninhibited Daniel (Luke Kirby), something happens inside her, and when she finds out he lives just across the street, her life is thrown upside down.
She tries her best to not fall for Daniel, but as she starts getting irritated over the smallest things about her husband, the prospect of tearing her life up and running away with Daniel becomes more and more attractive. However, and perhaps thankfully, the scenario is never presented so simplistically in Take This Waltz.
In an apparent comedy, which takes a slow, lingering turn into a tearful drama, director Polley seems to know exactly what she is doing with her three protagonists, all of which evoke true empathy at some point or other. A sign of the film’s realistic approach to story, there is not a logical row of events leading to a defining moment of decision, but rather scattered moments of stolen looks, awkward silences, lingering suspicion, sparks of chemistry, honesty, lies, even reconciliation before an understated heartbreak. There seems to be a narrative conviction behind it, which makes up for the parts that feel a little flat, especially in the third act, when the empathy for Margot’s predicament wanes a little too much. That might be the script’s fault, rather than the director’s, though, and the ending is suitably ambiguous for what has taken place leading up to it.
Within that subdued realism, though, is a visual presentation full of vibrant colors and a artfully cute design, making it stylistically interesting throughout. The several wordless scenes between Margot and Lou, along with a swimming pool scene, are entrancing, although subtly so, in line with the narrative and performances.
Speaking of performances. Michelle Williams has, in record time, become one of the most exciting actresses in the world, simple as that, and she shows it yet again here. She is playing a character without a clear direction or motive, and in weaker hands Margot could easily be reduced to a whimsical, first-world-problems floozy. But her every expression, glance, movement and hesitation is so carefully controlled that you can’t really take your eyes off her. Her chemistry with Kirby’s Daniel is tangible and they bounce off each other so effortlessly that you wish Seth Rogen wasn’t so achingly empathetic as Lou. Rogen turns in his most subdued performance to date as Lou, and his morbidly cute (you’ll understand the expression when you see the film) exchanges of love confessions with his wife will make at least half the audience stay on his side through the film. Additionally, Sarah Silverman is great in a limited role as Lou’s sister, and does more than just showcase her awfully good comic timing.
The music may feel a little whimsical at times and doesn’t add too much to the flavor of the film, but it doesn’t steal from it either.
Final Verdict: Take This Waltz is more than a worthwhile second outing for Sarah Polley, and yet another showcase for Michelle Williams’ transcendental talent. Aided by very good performances from both Luke Kirby and Seth Rogen, it overcomes the narrative stumbles and becomes an art house film worthy of your attention.