Take This Waltz
Take This Waltz is beautiful, maddening, and sexy, just like its protagonist Margot (Michelle Williams). Margot speaks like a toddler to her husband Lou (Seth Rogen). She's moody but playful, and she has cutesy and symbolic neuroses like insisting on taking a wheelchair at the airport because trying to make her flight is the sort of limbo that makes her anxious. As she explains to a handsome stranger named Daniel (Luke Kirby), she's afraid of connections, she's afraid she'll get lost and no one will ever find her. Almost everything about her is childish, from her bright yellow raincoat to her junior high insults ("retard," "gaylord") to her shrieking embarrassment when she pees in the pool during a water exercise class.
"What's the matter with you," asks Daniel, "generally?" That's the crux of the movie. What is the matter with Margot? Even Margot doesn't know the root of her restlessness. It seems the only person willing to call her on it is her sister-in-law Geraldine, an alcoholic in recovery who is already anticipating her own failure.
Take This Waltz relies heavily on chance and metaphor, but the emotional intensity can make you willing to take that leap. Williams carries the film as Margot, while Rogen gets an excellent chance to show his emotional side as Lou, a lovable bear of a man. Kirby plays Daniel with an easy, heady sexuality that makes Margot's decision understandably difficult. Sarah Silverman drops her bad girl comedian persona and really shines as acerbic but insightful Geraldine.
After Daniel and Margot meet at a historic village (she's rewriting the tour book for the tourist destination, and he's, who knows, a fan of colonial history), Daniel is seated next to her on the plane. He also happens to live down the street from her and Lou. By the time he's began to wonder what Margot's deal really is, they're knee deep in a heated emotional affair. Their attraction is immediate and palpable, an irresistible force felt off screen. Daniel verbally consummates their affair with an unforgettably hot monologue.
Lou, on the other hand, isn't quite on the same page as Margot when it comes to their sex life, or future children. He's knee-deep in a chicken cookbook, so the couple and their family and friends eat almost nothing but different chicken dishes at every mean. You can only eat so much chicken, right? Daniel, on the other hand, is new. "New things are shiny," Geraldine tells her in the communal gym shower as the women are soaping up after that pool incident. "New things get old," comments a woman nearby. This is one of the strongest scenes in the movie, where women of all ages, shapes, and colors scrub down unapologetically and talk amongst themselves in a private/public space.
Take This Waltz is a more realistic portrayal of an erratic young woman who, in a different writer's hands, would be one of those Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Even though Margot wears adorable onesies and has the playfulness of a child, she also hurts a lot of people and is screwed up for no apparent reason. It's not always clear why these men are attracted to her, and you can tell they aren't sure themselves, but it's interesting and painful to watch it all unfold. Take This Waltz is beautifully shot, full of buttery sunlight and lush parks and sweetly decorated abodes. Polley rolled the dice on a difficult protagonist and comes up a winner.