Take This Waltz is the kind of film that conjures up thousands of questions, mostly because the plot is so plodding that it affords you plenty of time to think while nothing much is really happening. Questions you will have, too.
Why did I see so much full frontal nudity and how did it manage to be so uncomfortable? Will Williams’ character, Margot, ever make a definitive decision about anything or is she just going to sit there and look sullen all the time while her husband acts like a normal human being? Why is her husband, Seth Rogen’s Lou, an afterthought for the entirety of the movie when he, along with his on-screen sister, Sarah Silverman’s Geraldine, are the only truly interesting characters? Can a movie be terrible for 90 minutes, close strongly and still deliver a message that any viewer will stick around for, much less take to heart?
I’ve gotten ahead of myself a little, but for a film that runs nearly two hours, there isn’t a whole lot that actually happens in Take This Waltz, so weaving in qualitative discussion with plot details feels a little pointless.
Let’s try it all the same …
Margot (Williams) is a wannabe writer who pays the bills by updating travel brochures for Canada’s Department of Tourism. At least, I assume that’s who it’s for based on the film’s opening, set in Nova Scotia’s Louisbourg (a terrific National Park that, unlike this movie, I endorse wholeheartedly as worth your time should you ever find yourself in Cape Breton). Home for Margot is Toronto, and on the flight back from Nova Scotia, she meets Daniel (Luke Kirby) and strikes up a playful conversation that turns into full-on flirting by the time they are sharing a taxi ride home from the airport. As it turns out, Daniel has just moved in across the street from Margot, which makes things awfully awkward considering Margot’s roommate across the street also happens to be her husband of five years.
Then, nothing really happens for more than an hour. Margot and Daniel strafe at an affair, but never with much seriousness. There is just their shared attraction, dialogue that stretches the bounds of both believability and tolerability, frosty interactions between Margot and Lou — the latter of whom spends the entire film being a good person, a good husband and cooking chicken (seriously) — an uncomfortable shower scene with aforementioned gratuitous frontal nudity and, mostly, Margot being pouty and indecisive because she’s more attracted to the guy across the street then Lou. Woe is her.
Finally, Margot shits. Or she gets off the pot. I’m not really sure which, to be honest. By the time she actually makes her move, I definitely didn’t care which way she was going. Either way, there’s a sizable and savory dose of schadenfreude to be had when things don’t really work out all that well for her, and so in that way the conclusion is satisfying. She blows it, she knows it and we’re definitely not meant to pity her for her misjudgment. That much, at least, the film gets right.
Most everything else, it does not. What we have here is a package that looks ostensibly like an artsy film — There are lens filters! And longing glances! And big, deep, intellectual speeches! — but in reality is a profoundly uninteresting examination of well-trod ground. Sarah Polley, who wrote and directed Take This Waltz, wants us to reflect on those grass-always-seems-greener moments that can throw a wrench into loving relationships. The problem is that it takes so long to get to the point that by the time you arrive there, you’ll probably be thinking about laundry or groceries or the AL East standings or that big meeting at work next week.
Screening Room Rating: 4 out of 10