Sometimes people find themselves in the difficult circumstance where heart is in conflict with brain. The heroine of “Take This Waltz” feels an urge to follow her heart, but she is not so sure about how to deal with it. It goes without saying that she should make a sensible choice in her tricky situation, but, as we know, it is hard not to follow heart even when brain strongly advises not to do that, and that makes her and others around her unhappy.
She is a young married woman named Margot(Michelle Williams), who works as a freelance writer. During her business trip, she meets Daniel(Luke Kirby), and they are attracted to each other during their conversation on the plane to Toronto. Margot later tells him that she is married, so it could have remained as a brief flirt between them, but she has never imagined that Daniel is actually her neighbour. After the plane arrives at the airport, they get a ride together because they live in the same neighbourhood, and, what do you know, he lives right across the street from her home.
Margot has lived with her husband Lou(Seth Rogen) for nearly five years in their cozy house in some nice neighborhood of Toronto. Although paying a lot of attention to his work at the kitchen for the cook book to be published, Lou has been a kind, caring husband to her. They start their morning with a warm, playful talk on their bed, and they are comfortable with each other in the house filled with many colorful objects here and there. As far as I can remember, the only shabby spot in their house is the bathroom where they have a little ‘problem’ with shower.
Watching their house and other equally nice-looking houses, I frequently wondered how they can afford to live in such a good neighbourhood as a couple of writers who do not seem to earn a lot of money through their jobs. Come to think of it, Daniel is also leading a comfortable solitary life of his own even though his main occupation besides artistic activities is merely a rickshaw driver operating in a tourist area(and he pulls his rickshaw by himself while running along the streets!).
This premise may not sound so realistic, but I appreciated that the director/writer Sarah Polley imbues her story with the warm, intimate atmosphere maintained well by the performances and the production design. The daily life of Lou and Margot is sort of realistically ideal, and we immediately accept them as a couple who have been accustomed to each other for years. Their neighbourhood looks like a good place where you can raise your children while growing old together with your spouse; besides a beach nearby, there are also a swimming pool and a movie theater, which are incidentally two important elements in my daily life.
But there is also the plain reality beneath these pretty sights, and it is mainly represented by the unspoken gentle ennui between Margot and Lou. They still like each other, but Margot feels something is missing in their stable life, so she finds herself increasingly attracted to Daniel even though she knows it is a wrong thing. She goes outside, and she spends a lot of time with him at various places while Lou keeps being happily occupied with developing the new cuisines for chicken. Daniel wants her, and so does she, but she is conflicted about what she should do. Lou vaguely senses something is wrong with her, but he is at a loss when she suddenly lets out her frustration in front of him.
It is not easy to sympathize with Margot because she does several unwise things while hesitating between two generous men, but Michelle Williams’ performance makes us understand her character with some degrees of empathy. As shown in her notable independent films such as “Wendy and Lucy”(2008) and “Blue Valentine”(2010), Williams is one of few actresses who can look simultaneously plain, sweet, and pretty, and that aspect of hers works well in the film while the movie realistically captures the small moments of daily life such as the swimming lesson Margot and her sister-in-law Geraldine(Sarah Silverman) attend along with a group of middle-aged ladies. Their shower scene, featuring full frontal nudities, does not look gratuitous much, and it actually accentuates a truth about life imparted by one of the ladies.
Williams is supported well by her co-performers. Although his character is limited by the story, Luke Kirby is likable as a decent man who tactfully pursues a woman he desires for. Sarah Silverman is also good as Margot’s sister-in-law struggling with alcoholism; there is a crucial scene around the ending where Geraldine points out what Margot has done, and Silverman does not step into overacting while adhering to her character’s flaw. As he did in “Funny People”(2009), Seth Rogen effectively sheds his usual comic persona, and he does a better job by immersing himself into an amiable ordinary guy who is understandably oblivious to his wife’s trouble. When he has the anniversary night with Margot, Lou gladly accepts a rickshaw ride from Daniel, while not sensing at all that Daniel is indirectly courting his wife through the ride.
“Take This Waltz” has romantic moments, but its hard look at romance is far from being sentimental. As shown in one dreamy sequence in the movie, passion is merely a temporary thing, and it is bound to be dissipated in the end no matter how long you can have a fun with it. Nevertheless, probably because of a part of our nature programmed somewhere in our genome, we sometimes cannot help ourselves from trying to fill the void in our life even though it is usually futile or ruinous to do that. As one song says, love is indeed drug; once you get hooked, it is hard to cope with it, and there is always a price for that.