Sarah Polley's new film "Take This Waltz," opens with Margot (Michelle Williams), barefoot and blue-toenailed, baking a tray of muffins in an already sweltering apartment -- simultaneously seeking heat and wilting from it. At 28, she has been married for five years, but it doesn't show. She carries a tote bag instead of a purse, and she "wuvs" her equally immature (but sweet) husband Lou, played by Seth Rogan. But the couple is forced to grow up when Margo meets a handsome stranger who turns out to live uncomfortably close to them. We spoke to Williams about young love, restlessness and what happens when we want more than "nice."
Do you think that being married young hindered Margo?
I think there was a kind of complacency, a kind of sleepiness to it. She was getting her basic needs met. She was being cared for, they had food and shelter, and she wasn't wanting for care. To be married at such an early age...which seems like something that's very adult -- in fact it allowed her to be stuck in childishness. There's a quote that I read that became really important to me, and I wrote in the beginning of my notebook for this movie. And it's, "How do you go about finding the thing, the nature of which is completely unknown to you?" Something doesn't feel quite right, something feels off, but she doesn't know where it is, so where do you start to look for it? This kind of restlessness -- i that's where the tall, dark stranger comes in.
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What do you think would have happened if Margo hadn't met him?
I think if not him, then probably somebody else, but maybe it would've taken more time. I think she would've had an awakening at some point. I don't think that she would have stayed in this dozy, half-lived life. ...Cindy in "Blue Valentine" and Margot both think about and may or may not leave their marriages because being with somebody who loves them isn't enough; they want a little bit more. I've heard, "How could you leave such a nice guy?" and I think it's just the most preposterous question. Good and nice--that's the baseline. I don't know how we've come to this place where good and nice is exceptional in a man. And that if you find it, you better keep it -- because if you don't, then somebody else will. It confuses me a little bit. I think that we're allowed to ask for more than good and nice.
Do you see a gradual leaning toward open relationships -- what Dan Savage calls "monogamish"?
Oh, I like that! I love Dan Savage. [Laughs] Monogamish!
Was Margo's situation meant to represent something universal, or was that particular to her character?
I think that you always hope that the particulars are universal. And that actually the more particular you get, the more universal it becomes. ... I think in so many ways I think that romantic love has replaced a spiritual love, that a desire for communion and oneness used to be something that was more typically a religious experience, and because we're a little detached from religion culturally and historically, relationships become a place where you kind of hope for that feeling, that kind of ecstasy. So, I think that's a kind of universal thing, that it's ultimately disappointing. That feeling, that first red-hot rapturous feeling, it fades and then what are you left with? And is it wrong to be left with something that feels a little bit mundane or is that what everything is gonna feel like? Is it a case of wherever you go there you are?
I was definitely surprised to see Sarah Silverman, who did a really beautiful job, and also Seth Rogan. How did you feel when you heard that you'd be performing in opposite someone known for comedy?
I thought, "Oh great, I'm gonna look like such a dolt. I'm gonna be the piece of wood next to Seth Rogan."
But wouldn't this be where you shine? It's not exactly a comedy.
For me this movie felt like it had a lighter touch. I said to a friend, "Oh my gosh you're never gonna believe it I'm gonna make this movie, it's kinda funny, I get to pee myself. ... I like an awkward humor, I like an embarrassment humor, so to me it felt like a funny movie and to them it felt like a dramatic movie. We were all kind of in new territory. I remember Seth saying at one point, "Boy, it sure is hard to tell how you do around here after a take, because the movies I make usually people are cracking up behind the monitor...jeez."