Michelle Williams leads this Waltz
By Betsy SharkeyLos Angeles Times | Wednesday, October 31, 2012
3 (out of five stars)
Director: Sarah Polley
Cast: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman
Rated: R for language, some strong sexual content and graphic nudity
Running time: 1 hour, 56 minutes
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There is so much that is delicate and soft, so much that is hurtful and hard about love when filmmaker Sarah Polley gets her hands on it.
She has done it yet again in “Take This Waltz,” which stars Michelle Williams, Luke Kirby and Seth Rogen in the story of the death of a marriage and the emotional dance it took to get there.
Williams, in yet another head-turning role, is 28-year-old Margot. She is almost five years into a playful relationship with husband Lou (Rogen), an author-chef working on a cookbook devoted to chicken (there’s a point being made). She sets off for a travel piece she’s writing. The destination is Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, one of those dressed-up villages with actors and props conjuring up simpler times when choices seemed black and white.
Margot herself is in a gray area, a subtle discontent that she can’t quite put her finger on and one that will take on many shades throughout the film. But this is also a story about the many shades of infidelity, and Polley, who wrote and directed, is setting up the question of it — to taste the forbidden fruit or not — which the film will waltz around in predictable and unpredictable ways.
At the village, Margot has a brief brush with a good-looking guy, Daniel (an excellent Kirby). He turns up again as her seatmate on the flight home, where a little conversation and a lot of electricity passes between them. Chemistry, when it comes to describing relationships, doesn’t quite fit here. It’s more like an explosion deep underground that causes the earth to move while Margot tries to keep steady. Back in Toronto, a shared cab ride home takes them unexpectedly to the same street; he’s an artist who has just moved into the neighborhood. Just as he gets out of the cab, she gulps and says she is married. He hadn’t asked.
For all the beautiful dialogue Polley has written in “Take This Waltz,” and there is enough that the script earned a spot on the 2009 Black List of Hollywood’s best unproduced screenplays, the filmmaker often communicates better without words. Margot always looks dreamy and distracted. She’s drifting aimlessly, and the beautiful opening sequence speaks to that as she goes through the motions of making blueberry muffins on a hot summer day.
Lou spends hours cutting and cooking chicken, rarely moving from a single spot, telegraphing a sense of someone who knows exactly who he is and what he wants in life. When he says to Margot, we don’t need to talk, we know everything about each other, he believes that is a good thing. Rogen has dialed it down to play Lou, and he emerges as a stronger actor for it. In every move, Kirby (“Mambo Italiano,” “The Samaritan”) has given Daniel a determined intensity that is embodied in the artful way he runs down the street pulling a tourist rickshaw, it’s his part-time job, later in his paintings and finally in the way he pursues Margot. A seduction scene in a bar when there are only words and not a single touch is made incredibly provocative by those choices.
There are other players in the drama, most notably comic Sarah Silverman. Like Rogen, she has tapped into a different side here. She plays Lou’s sister, Geraldine, another young wife but with the add-ons of two kids, a devoted husband and a serious alcohol problem. She’s just out of rehab at the first of the film, and when Margot pleads with her to not fall apart, it’s hard not to think she is talking to herself, as well.