If the mid-life crisis is a widely accepted phenomenon, Take This Waltz considers the existence of a quarter-life crisis; a period of comfort, somehow without the same hope and promise as found on the brink of adulthood. And with comfort comes the danger of falling into the pattern of routine in an otherwise healthy relationship.
Lou (Seth Rogen) and Margot (Michelle Williams) are happily married 20-somethings, but find themselves past the thrills of the honeymoon period both literally and metaphorically. The plot takes shape through a series of far-fetched chance happenings in which Margot encounters the bohemian Daniel (Luke Kirby) on a flight home to Toronto. Their chemistry is clear from the off, but after a shared taxi ride from the airport they discover that they also have the same address, their abodes separated only by a strip of tarmac. Suddenly and unwittingly the dilemma of a love triangle is thrust upon Margot, and though predictable, the manner of the final outcome's arrival holds the attentions.
Director Sarah Polley manages to sow the seeds of doubt in measured fashion, creating a ‘will she, won’t she’ tussle along the path of the inevitable, the apparently doomed marriage a tool to see just how far she can tempt fate. Margot's attempts at restraint, meanwhile, simply serve to heighten the sexual tension with her new fantasy friend.
The film breaks the mould by casting the female as the renegade. Oblivious, sweet husband Lou draws on the audience's sympathies, but the clue for his downfall is barely hidden in his occupation as a cookery book writer, a book solely dealing with different ways of cooking chicken. The fact that ‘chicken’ is the default answer for any remotely unknown meat speaks for itself.
Rogen thrives in his role as the decent and likeable, but just a tad lacklustre, good guy. Williams also puts in a fine performance glowing with a natural gloom that suited Margot perfectly, while Kirby, although charming, can’t knock off the slight oddity that comes with pulling a rickshaw for a living.
The film is visually very pleasing. Toronto's suburbia is awash with warm, summery colours providing the fertile backdrop for whimsical vitality and adventurous lust. Polley has a knack for shooting a scene with poise, with the pool scene looking sublimely ethereal on the big screen.
More time could have been spent investigating Margot’s perennial melancholy, and Daniel’s audacious persistence seems a touch overblown and stalker-ish at times, often appearing out of nowhere just at the right time. The explicit, but clinical and systematic nudity, meanwhile, may appear over the top, but is an important line into the tone of the film's conclusion.
Margot is warned early on that “new things become old”, making Take This Waltz a clever imitation of the fallacy of novelty and an enjoyably candid look at the complexities of relationships and the unpredictability of love.