Film Review – Take This Waltz
Michelle Williams seems to be quickly establishing herself as one of the most talented actresses working today. Despite her multiple Academy Award nominations and loads of acclaim, she has refused to take the easy road to success and star in big budget movies. She continues this trend of picking more challenging roles with her latest project Take This Waltz, the new film from indie darling Sarah Polley.
The story follows Margot (Michelle Williams), who has some fun casually flirting with a stranger named Daniel (Luke Kirby) on a flight home. After departing the plane, they realize that not only are they neighbors, but nothing can come from their flirtations because Margot is already married to Lou (Seth Rogen). Needless to say, complications ensue.
There is no question that Michelle Williams can act. She was wonderful in Blue Valentine and she was the best part of My Week With Marilyn, but here she is again playing the role of a wife in an unsatisfying marriage, and I feel like it is beginning to grow tired. I’m not saying her execution of the part was flawed in any way, but I would like to see her in a role that provides her a bit more room to explore or try something different. She has good chemistry with both Kirby and Rogen, which makes the film work, but the story plays out about how you might predict a scenario like this would go. Williams does an admirable job of operating under the tension of the scenario, as she vacillates between wanting to be a loving wife vs. following her true desires.
At its core, the film focuses on portraying the restlessness of Williams character. This is a dividing point in the movie—you either are open to watching her search to fill that void, or not. The notion of waiting to get something and then it not being exactly what you want is relatable, but it doesn’t necessarily draw out empathy. Williams does a good job straddling this gap as she plays both sides, but it is easy to see how this angle of the story might turn people off.
The film does an excellent job of highlighting some examples of a point I’ve made before, about actors working outside of their comfort through the work of supporting roles. As much as I like Seth Rogen as a comedic actor, I think I prefer him in dramatic roles. He was wonderful in both Funny People and 50/50, as he is great at creating characters with big hearts. His role here is excellent as well, as the husband who isn’t necessarily a bad guy—his marriage just isn’t a good fit. The biggest surprise, though, is Sarah Silverman. Most of the time I find her to be trying too hard with her comedy and difficult to enjoy, but she was wonderful in her supporting role here. Her willingness to take on this dramatic role, as well has her willingness to take her character to a dark place, completely made me look at her in a different light as an actress.
The heart and soul of the film is writer/director Sarah Polley. Already having made a name for herself as an actress, she continues to show her versatility as a filmmaker, with her script having been listed on the Black List back in 2009, designating it one of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood. It is unfortunate that it took another couple of years to be made, but it’s nice to see her executing her own vision as the director as well. Clearly she had a vision of what she wanted the film to be, and while it didn’t full resonate with me, I appreciate the craft that went into making it. There is one time-lapsed panning shot towards the end that showcases Polley’s talent…I look forward to seeing her evolve as a director.
I’m not going to claim this film is going to be a crowd-pleaser. At its core, this is an indie relationship drama, and that isn’t going to be for everyone. I didn’t find the concept to be particularly original, but the execution was well done. The pieces don’t necessarily all add up to a great film, but there are a lot of things to like about this movie.
Final Grade: B