Take This Waltz
At last, a complicated movie about an affair. One that takes into account a situation where someone is in a relatively successful relationship, she just feels that something is missing. Yes, it’s the forbidden fruit, offered to someone who was doing just fine, really, but wanted more. Maybe that’s the original sin?
Michelle Williams plays Margot with a luminosity that by the end, makes you eager to see every change of expression on her face, because this is how we know how she is feeling (no lazy voiceovers for writer/director Sarah Polley). Margot is a writer, who’s married to Lou (Seth Rogen, in a remarkably serious role), also a writer. Though Margot creates travelogues and Seth compiles cookbooks, still, this makes their relationship incredibly insular. They don’t interact daily with a lot of other people, and are absent from each other hardly at all, which, in retrospect, may have been part of the problem. Oftentimes, they are more like giggly siblings than a real married couple. Their casual conversations seem so relaxed and playful, and yet, Margot is beset with an occasional melancholy. Alas, though this may be just part of her personality, one that she hasn’t really learned to deal with yet, she quietly begins to blame Lou’s inadequacies for her own lack of complete happiness. And after five years of blissful ignorance, he doesn’t even realize he’s on trial here.
Margot accidentally meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), and it wasn’t really love at first sight, but she found herself intrigued, and once she found out he was actually a neighbor, found herself making opportunities to “bump into” him. What’s going on here? Does she just enjoy being flirtatious? Is she really considering playing with fire? Is she somehow enjoying leading him on, thinking she’s in control of the situation, and can stop this silliness whenever she wants? Ironically, her husband’s sister, Geraldine (Sarah Silverman) is a recovering addict, who’s close enough to the situation to see what’s coming and tries to sound a quiet word of warning, but it falls on deaf ears. Especially after the time when Margot and Daniel meet for coffee, and he verbally tells her what he would do with her if he had the opportunity to make love to her, an erotic and ironic form of “oral sex” that prompted one woman in the front of the theater where I was sitting to shout out, “Here I am, take me!”
Oh, Ms. Polley is not at all afraid to titillate her audience, either. There’s a very strange group shower scene involving a bunch of women casually conversing after swimming in an indoor pool, and while a couple of them (like Margot and Geraldine) have the bodies of models and actresses, the others, well, let’s just say they’re built like most normal people: that is, something less than the ideal. Ms. Polley also shows us other un-self-conscious full-frontal marital nudity, you know, the casual getting undressed while in the bathroom kind. Or using the bathroom in front of each other, even. Some people would consider that sort of personal grooming nudity something less than erotic; as the old saying goes, there’s naked, and then there’s just “nekkid.” But later on, Ms. Polley flashes us the kind of lover’s sexual entanglements and fervent grapplings that leave little to the imagination, the sort of graphic couplings that will make some moviegoers wince or giggle with embarrassment, and others go home ready for an immediate paramour.
Do we understand why Margot falls into the trap of her own making? Yes, but we still ache for Lou, trying so hard to be accepting, but so feeling the unexpected pain. And later, when Margot discovers that forbidden fruit itself eventually begins to go stale, we wonder if we are all doomed to serial monogamy, or if we can maybe take an object lesson here, and work at re-kindling the romance in a tried but true gently-used relationship. Well, here’s to choosing fidelity, and all the harrowing familiarity that accompanies it.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas