Take This Waltz is that most maddening breed of movie: The Occasionally Great Film. Everything is smooth sailing, even inspired at times, and then - CLANG - a moment so wrong you just want to bury your head in your popcorn. It is the equivalent of watching an Olympic gymnast face plant halfway through a flawless routine.
Michelle Williams continues her string of strong performances as Margot, an aimless young woman in a loving but passionless marriage to Seth Rogen's Lou. He is deeply immersed in writing a cookbook and spends all day merrily stirring endless pans of sauce while failing to notice his wife's long, wistful glances out the window. One day on a plane ride home Margot shares a connection with a smooth operator named Daniel who, wouldn't you know it, just so happens to live up the street from Margot and Lou. To Margot he is an escape hatch out of her suffocating domestic boredom, but is it worth exploding her comfortable life to take that chance?
The big problem here is that director/writer Sarah Polley can't resist putting the film's subtext into unwieldy, tension-killing dialogue. There is an electric scene around the halfway point where the ever-oblivious Lou has dragged Daniel to a party at his home, and Daniel uses the opportunity to make a blatant play for Margot. A terrific energy builds as the music is blasting and loaded glances are flying and Michelle Williams face reveals a war of conflicting impulses. Then the energy flatlines when Daniel launches into a cumbersome dramatic monologue about how she won't make up her mind and how that it is just like Margot's earlier dramatic monologue where she explained her dislike of being between things. CLANG!
I can't engage with a movie if it is going to be constantly elbowing me in the ribs, asking "Do you get it? Do you get it?" Sarah Silverman even has an unforgivable scene towards the end where she explains her self-destructive alcoholism is the same as Margot's self-destructive behavior, stopping just short of yelling "Don't you understand? It's a metaphor! "
It's the mark of a valuable filmmaker that even their missteps are worth checking out, and Take This Waltz is a fascinating dud. One can make out the unique voice of the filmmaker even as the film is stumbling. Now if only Sarah Polley can locate the restraint she demonstrated on Away From Her. Verdict: 5 out of 10