Tár is the kind of movie that will receive all of the accolades and then, three years from now, everyone will admit they never had any desire to watch it again. Featuring a sensational performance by Cate Blanchett and a compelling character study of a complex, accomplished woman, Tár has a lot to like, much to respect, but not enough to love.
The movie is about Lydia Tár, a famous composer who leads the Berlin Orchestra. She’s brilliant, she’s often a bitch, and she’s often right. She also does what’s right for Lydia, at the expense of others. She’s respected for it in public, but she has dark secrets, too.
She’s also at risk of being canceled.
Through Tár, writer/director Todd Field (In the Bedroom, Little Children) gives us one of the most fascinating characters in recent cinema memory, and a story dedicated to chipping away at her carefully sculpted facade. Lydia is a calculating, mesmerizing creature who, despite her intelligence, suffers from the weaknesses that come from narcissism–namely a blind belief that she will persevere in the face of tremendous adversity.
Blanchett, an actress known for no shortage of mesmerizing performances, is at her absolute best here. You give an actress like her an emotionally sophisticated character like this, and magic happens; this could be Blanchett’s best performance ever.
The movie itself is superbly written, directed, filmed, and edited (well, beyond the length). There’s no denying this is a well made movie.
And yet, it’s sort of cold. At times sterile. While some of that is intentional–Tár is an examination about a cold, seemingly sterile woman, after all–there are times when the movie can test your patience. Todd tends to linger too long on certain moments, especially early on, and with a final cut that is closer to three hours than two, his movie feels long.
Still, there’s no denying an allure that keeps you watching. The movie is labeled as a drama, but as the story progresses, especially in the film’s final scenes, one can’t help but think that Field is having more fun with the audience than he lets on. I didn’t particularly love the direction the movie takes, but that doesn’t mean Todd doesn’t take it to compelling places.
To sum it up, Tár is the kind of movie cinephiles love to prove to themselves they are true cinephiles. Worthy of all the Oscar buzz? Of course. Sensational? Of course. Appealing to mainstream audiences? Absolutely not, but how dare you snub your nose at the excellence of it all.
The movie has a lot to like, much to respect, but not enough to love.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.