Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Gap Trap

“Life has a gap in it. It just does. You don’t try to fill it like a lunatic.”
- Sarah Silverman as Jeri in 'Take This Waltz'

The words resonated so deeply that I rushed to my beaten up laptop to pound my thoughts away before they escaped me. I had just spent a Saturday afternoon watching 'Take This Waltz' (spoilers ahead), a 2011 Canadian film about a married woman, Margot, and her internal struggle to stay or stray - so brilliantly portrayed by Michelle Williams, no less. Throughout the film, I found myself both drawn and turned off by Margot and her situation. I empathized, sympathized and loathed her all at once. Sometimes what seems so black and white in our daily lives is actually far more gray then we imagine.

In the film, we constantly see Margot see-sawing from virtuous, loving wife to a woman on the verge of adultery - but never quite going there. It doesn't help of course that both her husband,Lou (played by Seth Rogen) and the 'other guy' who happens to be their neighbour, Daniel, are both endearing in their own ways. I so wanted Daniel to be a complete jerk and play the stereotypical wife-stealing Rico Suave character, with no hesitations or regard for the unassuming husband - alas, he showed such restraint and the perfect amount of charm and wit that you just could not help but feel HIS side of the struggle too. It's very seldom in any narrative does the audience empathize with more than one character, with the lines of protagonist and antagonist so brilliantly blurred. Kudos to Sarah Polley for creating such organic characters.

Some of the most tense moments for me were thoe where Margot and Daniel were alone together in a seemingly innocent setting with not-so-innocent intentions but never really going there. Like the scene in the bar where they go for an afternoon cocktail and he non-chalantly begins to tell her in detail his sexual fantasy should he ever have her way with her. Or the night where they wordlessly decide to meet at a public pool and enjoy a midnight swim. Although 'enjoy' is too light a word. While there are a few gratuitous nude scenes in the movie, the most erotic is Margot and Daniel swimming alongside each other, as if in an aquatic trance, but without any physical contact. They reminded me of dolphins mating! The sexual tension is astounding and the magic is only interrupted when, ironically, Daniel grabs her ankle. Margot 'wakes up' from their 'flirting frenzy'  and decides this was all a mistake and goes home.

In the core of it all, Margot constantly reminds herself - and us, the audience - that she is married and goes to great lengths to work her relationship with Lou. But the forbidden stirrings of her heart is also hard to ignore. She figures she can compromise: She makes a date to share a kiss with Daniel, 30 years from now, at a lighthouse. She tells him. "After 35 years of being loyal to my husband, I think I deserve one kiss from you." A statement, which again, leaves me shifting uncomfortably in my seat and yet the romantic allure of it all is hard to deny.

At the end, Daniel decides to move away, knowing he cannot be in the middle of this uncertainty. Lou, who we thought was none the wiser, puts the pieces together and Margot decides to leave her marriage of five years.Fast forward, we see Margot with Daniel and we watch as the relationship go from sizzle to fizzle. But it's at one point towards the end of the story, where Margot is confronted by her alcoholic (ex) sister in law who tells her, "Don't act like I'm the embarrassment. We're the same but you're fucked up....Life has a gap in it. It just does. You don’t try to fill it like a lunatic.”

I found this so profound because it rang true. We all have gaps in our lives. A void that sometimes we can't even identify. Loneliness, boredom, guilt, loss. They come in many forms. Nobody has all their shit sorted. Nobody. Not even the happiest couples in the world with the 2.5 kids and Volvo parked in their double-spaced garage. Or the unmarried CEO who wears Prada, who spends weekends in Tokyo and Paris and never has to look twice at a price tag.

I know what my gap is but I seldom allow myself to give it a moment's thought.Because it's so easy to go there and lose yourself. And when you do, that's when you try to fill it like a lunatic. So instead, I choose to distract myself - with work, with writing, with working out, with buying more shoes, with scrubbing my tiles clean.The story of Margot is a good reminder that sometimes there are no right or wrong choices - just good or regretful ones.