Title: Take This Waltz
Directed By: Sarah Polley
Starring: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman
Nowadays, quirky films can be considered just as tiresome as the found footage genre. We see it so often that the bar is constantly being raised higher and higher, making it more difficult for filmmakers to offer up amusing silly situations and make them feel authentic. However, when you take on such an endeavor and are so steadfast to nailing every detail of the process of bringing a very specific vision to life, like writer-director Sarah Polley, you’re bound to end up with at least some degree of success.
While on a business trip re-writing the brochure for a historical reenactment facility, Margot (Michelle Williams) meets Daniel (Luke Kirby). Oddly enough, Margot then winds up sitting next to Daniel on their flight home. An even bigger coincidence, they share a cab home from the airport and discover they live right down the street from each other. A match made in heaven, right? Perhaps if Margot wasn’t married.
Margot returns home to her husband of five years, Lou (Seth Rogen). When Lou isn’t working on his chicken-making cookbook, he’s endlessly affectionate with Margot. But still, Margot can’t quite shake Daniel and the fact that she can see him from her window on a daily basis doesn’t help.
While the tone of Take This Waltz feels very ordinary, a slice of life film, it’s the details that really make it stand out, particularly every little thing about Margot. The film kicks off with an amusing scene during which a clearly awkward Margot is thrown into a hilariously awkward situation, and her reaction just says it all. She’s an odd specimen, wildly paranoid, desperately in need of approval, oozing with love and affection and perpetually confused, and these qualities manifest into a person who’s certainly an adult, but retains an overabundance of childish habits.
Margot’s personality makes her relationships all the more interesting. No, she’s not a terrible person, but it is a bit curious why a man would tolerate some of her stranger quirks, particularly Daniel. The fact that he falls for her after she admits a somewhat endearing yet particularly strange fear does confirm that he’s interested, but even as their romance blossoms, you’re never entirely convinced of how true his love is. Lou, on the other hand, feels like a much better fit. He and Margot share an unusual, but seemingly seamless day-to-day life and while he can get frustrated with her endless baby talk and constant hugging, he cares so deeply for her, he wouldn’t dare hurt her feelings.
While Daniel and Lou seem to have a clear understanding of their love for Margot, from an outsider’s perspective, something missing. Williams gives an incredibly honest performance, making Margot feel very real, but perhaps the character could have benefited from just a little more development, geared specifically towards her more likable qualities. Yes, it’s obvious and believable that Daniel and Lou both love Margot, but why they love her is a different story.
From a technical standpoint, Take This Waltz excels courtesy of Polley’s ability to make this film her own. At a running time of just under two hours, it could have used a little trimming here and there, but each scene is so intently designed to Polley’s specifications, it’d be a tough call whether or not to pare down the authorial articulacy for the sake of a slightly faster pace.
Visually, Polley absolutely nails it. Her camerawork is unique enough to feel fresh and she gets appropriate coverage, but what really stands out is the set and costume design. Margot and Lou’s home is incredibly colorful and has a level of flair that perfectly suits their personalities, and, the same is true of every prop and costume element, down to Margot’s blue toenail polish and her similarly colored pillowcases.
Generally, Take This Waltz is a very calculated piece and while that can make it feel slow, if you’re able to make a connection with the material, it can also make you appreciate it that much more. The set decoration is pitch perfect, the performances exceptionally honest and the soundtrack one you’ll want to hear long after the credits role, but none would be as successful if it weren’t for Polley’s notably cohesive work.