The Best Thing in “Take This Waltz”

“Life has a gap in it, it just does. You don’t go crazy trying to fill it like some lunatic.” — Sarah Silverman (Geraldine) to Michelle Williams (Margot) in Take This Waltz

I just finished watching my DVD of Take This Waltz, and I’m still marveling at how far Michelle Williams has won me over. It’s not that I ever had anything against her as an actress. I just disliked Jen Lindley, the character she played for six seasons on Dawson’s Creek, so much that I had a hard time separating her from the TV alter ego that made her a star until Williams’ version of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn forever put to rest all of my thoughts of Jen Lindley. I still say that of the five nominees, she should have won this year’s Best Actress Oscar. (Sorry, Meryl.)

As a whole, Take This Waltz is hardly a perfect film. It’s occasionally plodding and self-conscious, but I prefer this portrait of a marriage on the rocks to the overly bleak one served up in Blue Valentine. I also appreciate what the movie says about romantic relationships and restlessness, how we’re always chasing new highs, new news, but what’s new eventually gets old. What then?

Like Julie Christie in Away from Her, Sarah Polley’s 2006 debut directorial effort, Michelle Williams’ Margot transfers her affection from the old, her husband of five years Lou (Seth Rogen), to the new, the hunky artist/rickshaw driver Daniel who lives across the street (Luke Kirby). In Away from Her, Christie’s Fiona had an excellent excuse: She was in the throes of Alzheimer’s Disease. Margot’s memory is perfectly intact. She’s just young and restless.

My favorite scene in the film takes place at a party celebrating Geraldine’s sobriety. Lou invites Daniel to join in the fun, unaware that his neighbor has the hots for his wife and that the feeling is mutual. On the soundtrack, Feist is covering “Closing Time,” my favorite song by her legendary fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen, from whose back catalog the film gets its title. It took me a while to recognize the Feist rocker as a remake of the standout on Cohen’s 1992 album The Future, but once I did, I loved her drowsy, agit-rock take even more. Great covers of great songs don’t grow on trees, you know.

I didn’t want the scene to end, and when it did, I sort of found myself half wishing the movie would, too. I had to hear that song again.

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