Relationships and our perception of love when we are in them are at the heart of Take This Waltz, Sarah Polley’s sophomore feature film. I was actually very excited for this release, having watched and enjoyed Polley’s directorial debut, Away From Her. Take This Waltz seems to have all the pieces. It is a beautiful film, brimming with sumptuous colours and living spaces that made me madly jealous. It has a fantastic cast, a talented director in Polley, an excellent soundtrack and the potential for mature insight into adult relationships. Unfortunately, despite the talent on screen, it is Polley’s writing that is this films undoing.
Michelle Williams plays Margo, a 28 year old writer, who meets Daniel (Luke Kirby) while on a trip. They end up beside each other on the plane ride home, and after a quick conversation, seem to feel a mutual attraction. Through a strange turn of fate, it turns out that they are neighbours, something entirely inconvenient, since Margo is married. Margo’s husband, Lou (Seth Rogan) is a sweet and goofy chef in the midst of writing a cookbook. Margo and Lou have a strange, almost childlike relationship (they are constantly teasing each other and making funny voices), but Margo seems bored in her 5 year marriage. She begins pursuing Daniel, despite her assertions that she still loves Lou.
I’m not too sure what to make of Margo. Despite being the lead character, I really don’t know anything about her. She is a freelance writer, but asserts that she is not writing what she wants to write. She never alludes to what this may be. In fact, it’s never quite clear what she wants in her life. She seems confused, emotionally insecure (she’s perpetually on the verge of tears or laughter), and is most definitely in need of a good therapist. I never really understood her desires, nor could I make sense of her choices. Polley’s writing tries to convince the audience that there is something deeper to Margo but it never really amounts to anything but verbal garbage. Many of the lines she speaks feel forced because they are so overtly honest. This intense, and unrealistic honesty culminates into conversations between Margo and Daniel that are completely unbelievable. Even with their character’s mutual propensity for over sharing, there is no chemistry between them. Their relationship just doesn’t work, despite Williams’ and Kirby’s best efforts to bring it to life.
Despite this, the film is not a complete loss. Seth Rogan is cute and loveable as Lou, and provides the film with a few comedic moments. Sarah Silverman is also good as Geraldine, Lou’s brash, recovering alcoholic sister. Furthermore, there were a few moments that I genuinely connected with, such as Lou’s pranks, and Margo and Geraldine’s conversation with the women around them while they shower after a ridiculous aquafit class. Unfortunately, these few golden moments could not prevent this film from falling flat.
Clocking in at just under 2 hours, Take This Waltz drags and probably would have benefited from a more judicious editor. I am sad to say that I was relieved when the credits began to roll. In all, what seemed like a promising concept at the beginning of the film quickly falls to pieces in a succession of contrived scenarios, forced dialogue and bad chemistry.