Good Luck with the Chicken

17 Jul

Is there a more sympathetic actress working today than Michelle Williams?

No matter what part she’s playing, whether it’s Marilyn Monroe or one half of a couple about to break up, she gives a performance of such subtlety and deep emotion that you can’t help but feel for her.

And it doesn’t hurt that with the exception of her relationship with the late Heath Ledger, her off-screen life has not been the stuff of tabloid fodder. As a result, she’s able to more easily disappear into her roles without us thinking about her wild nights out or other escapades.

This fact serves Williams well in her latest film, Take This Waltz, in which she plays a happily married woman who falls for her neighbor.

The whole thing is like a kind of Long, Hot Summer: Over the course a few warm-weather months, Williams’ character, Margot, flirts and finds herself increasingly drawn to Daniel (Luke Kirby), despite her loyalty to and love for her husband, Lou (Seth Rogen).

Why would Margot stray? It’s not as if Lou is a bad husband. He’s slightly aloof, as he focuses more on his poultry cookbook than his wife at times, but these two are still in love. In Daniel, Margot sees a chance to be happier, and to have a little more fun. He may be the more conventionally attractive choice, but it’s not exactly as if he’s a significantly better alternative.

Really, the whole thing is a giant inconvenience. Margot didn’t want anyone else, but now she has someone else. How will she deal with it?

Take This Waltz was written and directed by Sarah Polley, an actress best known for her performances in films like Go, and she does well by Williams for much of the movie, even if Margot’s motives are unclear.

The film has an easy authenticity; Polley has a skill for letting her characters show emotion that doesn’t feel contrived, and for putting them in situations that aren’t always flattering (a scene that takes place in a gym shower comes to mind). She also effectively captures the heat, both in the temperature and in the increasing connection Margot and Daniel feel.

Through it all, Williams gives a characteristically sympathetic performance, capturing Margot’s yearning for more — even if it might ultimately bring her less — and her embarrassment at being caught in the middle of these two men.

That all aside, though, perhaps it says the most that when Margot does finally make her decision, that’s when the movie feels least effective and satisfying. Polley spends the first two–thirds of Take This Waltz setting up the dilemma in such a no-win kind of way that there really couldn’t be a resolution that felt right.

Still, it’s Williams’ performance that makes Take This Waltz worth seeing. She has an easy chemistry with Rogen and Kirby, and she makes Margot a woman we certainly don’t envy, but still very much root for.

I’m giving Take This Waltz a B.

One Response to “Good Luck with the Chicken”


  1. Not Quite Wizard Enough | Martin's Musings - March 7, 2013

    […] giving such real, authentic performances in films like My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine, and Take This Waltz, and here is asked to do the exact opposite. She just looks lost amid the fakery and large-scale […]

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