take-this-waltz

Dir. Sarah Polley
(2012, R, 116 minutes)

Take This Waltz is built on a fundamental misunderstanding by writer-director Sarah Polley: that her heroine, Margot (Michelle Williams), is sympathetic. It starts with a business trip where she meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), and when they run into each other again on the plane back home, she explains the emotional reason she dreads connecting flights; perhaps Polley, whose last film was the beautiful Away from Her, is trying to make her seem vulnerable, or suggest the instinctive ease with which she talks to this new man, but instead Margot seems like a neurotic prone to over-sharing.

Back home Margot is married to Lou (Seth Rogen), who seems like a nice enough guy most of the time, but Daniel happens to live right across the street from them, and that complicates matters. From there the entire film becomes a process of Margot not making any decisions or taking any responsibility. Her conflict is understandable – the choice between new infatuation and comfortable domesticity was the subject of two much better films this year, The Deep Blue Sea and Anna Karenina – but her passive moping is not.

Another problem with Margot, as compared to the heroines of those other films, is her self-absorption. She agonizes over her feelings, over whether she should hurt her husband or else give up on a chance at new love, but she doesn’t realize that her indecisiveness is cruel to both men. By engaging in an emotional affair with Daniel, she is already betraying her husband, and by stringing Daniel along – getting close and pulling away, flirting and then admonishing – she’s hurting him too. In Anna and Deep Blue Sea I wondered if the women would be happy with their drastic choices. But I suspect Margot would find a way to be unhappy with whomever she ends up with.

During her tiresome hand-wringing, one character provides a much needed jolt of common sense: Lou’s sister Geraldine, played by Sarah Silverman, a provocative stand-up comic who brings a straight-talking rationality that is a welcome antidote to Margot’s coy inaction. I wanted Geraldine to slap sense into her sister-in-law, and occasionally she does, though not often enough; I wish her role in the film were larger. Geraldine, a recovering alcoholic, may not always be counted on to make wise choices, but at least she might eventually make one.

 

Advertisements