Take This Waltz celebrates life, marriage and infidelity although not particularly in that order. Michelle Williams meets a flirtatious guy (Luke Kirby) on the plane back home (Toronto) only to find he’s a neighbor to her and her husband (Seth Rogen). The tone is comic romance with an undertone of the serious bonds of long-term relationships.
Rogen specifically plays his part like a regular guy, with nary a hint of his more superficial (and most of the time hilarious) comic style that’s made him a name. Rogen’s in more of a 50/50 mode than a Knocked Up player. Williams continues to amaze audiences but not in the manner that’s won her accolades. It’s easy enough for her to mimic the persona of a Monroe but in Waltz Williams inhabits a real person with conflicts grounded in the real world. Likewise supporting player Sarah Silverman gets a workout (as the best friend) as a character with a drinking problem, and like Rogen never straying into her stand-up bread-and-butter persona as the snippy comedian. Kirby, less known to American audiences, holds his own as the seducer who still treats his rival with respect.
Director Sarah Polley has a commitment to her actors and takes steps to reveal full characterizations, and at the same time keeps an objective view of everyone’s motives. Rogen writes cookbooks and Kirby has a one-man rickshaw business but they approach their jobs with fulfillment. And there’s a lot of nudity. So much that when we see Williams and Silverman taking a shower at a public gym, we get so platonically intimate that subsequent nudity takes on a natural so-what feel. Couples have conversation in their common bathroom all the time.
Take This Waltz wants its audience to feel comfortable with people who love each other. Take This Waltz also moves into the uncertain space that such characters occupy as their lives start to change. Polley has made a film with a powerful backhand that doesn’t slap you across the face so much as pat you on the back. Added benefits are the convincing performances from the entire cast.
– Michael Bergeron