Margot (Michelle Williams) and Daniel (Luke Kirby) meet (well, “meet cute“) while Margot is on a writing assignment at the Fortress of Louisbourg living history museum at Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Daniel is assertive and handsome, Margo’s reserved and adorable. They meet again on the plane home to Toronto. He is intrigued by her offbeat vulnerability, and she is captivated by his confidence and his interest. They share a cab home together because, as luck would have it, they live very close to each other.
But there’s a complication to this sudden romance, and Margo names it upon reaching her home. “I’m married,” she tells Daniel.
Seth Rogen, performing quite capably in this straight role, plays Margo’s husband Lou. He’s the nicest guy, and they get along very well, but he does not have the romantic allure of Daniel, the mystery man right across the street, who speaks to something neglected inside Margo the way a train whistle whispers to a wanderer. It’s like he stepped out of a dream.
In fact, the full hour and 56 minutes of Take This Waltz has a lighthearted, dreamlike quality — a winking splash of magical realism. Margo’s neighborhood and the home interiors are unnaturally charming (and sometimes overly cluttered). The light of golden hour brings out rich colors everywhere. Outdoor sounds of children or a mourning doves evoke a languid summer. A bicycle quietly whizzes by. An amusement park ride on the Scrambler throbs and sparkles with the thrill of youthful abandon. There are weighty words at an iconic lighthouse. A fan oscillates mockingly. Daniel is an artist and a rickshaw operator. Lou is — well, that’s one of the movie’s jewels.
This film employs simple, potent dialogue at a quiet and relaxed pace. Even when Daniel woos Margo with a tantalizing talk that builds from tenderness to pulsing lust, he delivers it teasingly, pausing for her consent to continue. Quiet epiphanies shimmer here and there — the proverbial wisdom of a woman in the shower, Margo’s exasperation in trying to connect with her focussed husband at the stove. Sarah Silverman, in a supporting role as Lou’s alcoholic sister Geraldine, lands a frank insight near the end. Seth Rogan has a sequence that must look incoherent on the page, but plays out on his face with touching honesty.
The movie’s soundtrack both misses and hits. Some of the hipster background songs are just annoying, but the Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star” is fresh again on the Scrambler, and the Leonard Cohen duet with Jennifer Warnes which shares the film’s title is, of course, momentous.
Take This Waltz is a thoughtful, penetrating contemplation of the tension between marital familiarity and romantic adventure. The comforting, pretty dreamland Sarah Polley sets it in offsets this anxiety and approximates the rosy warmth of new love in an enchanting and original way. Michelle Williams is sublime and enigmatic. She gives a terrific performance.
I rate it three and a half stars out of four.