Continuing her run as the most respectable Dawson's Creek alumna, Michelle Williams stars as Margot Rubin in Sarah Polley's (who contends Diablo Cody for one of the youngest female voices in the film industry) sophomore feature, Take This Waltz (named after the Leonard Cohen song, in case you thought it sounded familiar. And besides movies named after songs have a way of being amazing, like Zoe Cassavetes' Broken English). From the onset of the film, opening with Margot pouring batter into a muffin pan, the ennui and disappointment with life's offerings is written all over her face.
For five years, Margot has been in a static marriage with Lou (Seth Rogen), a chef who has been diligently working on a cookbook filled solely with chicken recipes. In spite of Lou's evident affection for Margot, it is immediately clear that Margot feels neglected by him. While on a trip to a colonial town called Louisbourg, Margot observes a re-enacted public whipping (ironically of a man whose sin was adultery), urged by a stranger in the crowd named Daniel (Luke Kirby) to "put [her] back into it." Irritated by the remark, Margot says, "You got a lot of nerve, sir," and stalks away, never imagining that he would be the one to sit next to her on the plane back to Toronto.
As they sit next to one another, the connection between them is electric, with Margot confessing things that one would never ordinarily confess to a stranger, such as:
"I'm afraid of connections. In airports. Getting from one plane to another. The running, the rushing, the not knowing. Trying to figure it out. Wondering if I'm gonna make it. I think I may get lost and that I may rot and die in some forgotten empty terminal that nobody even knows exists... I'm afraid of wondering if I'll miss [the plane]. I don't like being in between things. I'm afraid of being afraid."
With their bond being firmly solidified on the plane, it only makes sense that the two would share a cab back to their respective homes together, quickly realizing that Daniel lives a few houses down from Margot, though she does not mention she is married until the end of the car ride. Unfortunately, this information proves irrelevant to both of them, considering how emotionally deep they've already gotten thus far. Regardless, Margot does her best to immerse herself in the duties of marriage by hosting Lou's family as they sample his latest chicken recipes. Among the noted family members are Geraldine (Sarah Silverman), a recovering alcoholic and Lou's sister, and Tony (Vanessa Coelho), Geraldine's daughter.
Even in spite of trying to distract herself from Daniel, Margot still manufactures a run-in with him one morning as he leaves the house with his rickshaw, a fact he calls her out on and then uses to his advantage to get her to share a cup of coffee with him. As they sit across the table from one another, Daniel asks, "Now what are you gonna do with me?" Margot wistfully replies, "Nothing." Daniel then offers to show her something, leading Margot to find herself back at his house where he hands her a painting he drew of her--one half of her being "full of hope" and the other "not living up to its full potential."
Insulted by Daniel's assessment of her, Margot still can't help but stay in his midst, prompting him to ask what's "generally" the matter with her. As an aspiring writer (freelancing for places like Louisbourg, which she visited to write the travel pamphlet for), Margot expresses what ails her in the following, eloquent way:
"I remember when my niece, Tony, was a newborn. I'd babysit her and sometimes she'd cry, like babies do. And I'd do everything I could to identify the source of the problem... Nine times out of ten I could solve the problem, I could figure it out, but... sometimes... I'm walking down the street and a shaft of light falls a certain way across the pavement and I just wanna cry. And then a second later it's over. And I decide, because I'm an adult, to not succumb to the momentary melancholy and I thought that, sometimes with Tony, she just had a moment like that. A moment of not knowing how or why and she just let herself go into it. And there was nothing anyone could do to make it any better. It was just her, and the fact of being alive...colliding."
With Lou increasingly devoted to perfecting his cookbook, Margot can't help but allow herself to get closer to Daniel, a fact that Geraldine notices instantly when she spots him watching Margot at the pool where they take exercise classes. As Margot seems to care less and less about being inconspicuous when it comes to spending time with Daniel, she agrees to spend the day with him, but still finds as non-sexual an activity as possible: Going to Centre Island to ride the Scrambler, a Tilt-a-Whirlesque ride that plays The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" as they swirl around and around. The song choice itself represents something resonant, as though Daniel is the video to Lou's radio star, steadily killing the remaining love in Margot's marriage.
Ultimately, Lou learns of Margot's dalliance with Daniel when he sees Margot watch Daniel drive away in the early hours of the morning after leaving her a note that simply says: "August 5th, 2040 2pm" (a reference to the day Margot asked to make an appointment to kiss him by the lighthouse in Louisbourg). Not wanting to stand in the way of her happiness, Lou urges Margot to go, something she takes him up on instantaneously--falling vagina first into a world of sexual novelty with Daniel.
Margot does not see Lou again until she is summoned to Geraldine's house after Tony has been left unattended for hours, hence the presence of the police. Geraldine returns from a bender, crashing her car into the sidewalk and stumbling out with a box of chicks to give to Tony. Before letting the police apprehend her, she demands to talk to Margot, calmly asserting, "I think you really fucked up Margot. In the big picture, life has a gap in it. It just does. You don't go crazy trying to fill it like some lunatic." It is then that Margot finally comprehends how grave a mistake she has made in thinking that she could find a way to avert the inevitable monotony of any relationship.