- Starring: Cate Blanchett, Noémie Merlant
- Directed by: Todd Field
- Rating: R
- Running Time: 2 hrs 38 mins
- Focus Features
With the 95th Academy Awards ceremony just days away, time is running short to get prepared for your Oscar party. To help you get caught up, here is my take on the drama “Tár,” which contains arguably the greatest performance of Cate Blanchett’s career. Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Director, “Tár” is a tale submersed in the classical music world featuring a renowned yet complicated conductor who in part falls prey to the cancel culture phenomenon.
A protégé of the great Leonard Bernstein, Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) has risen from humble beginnings in Staten Island to become the first female conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. We meet her as she is promoting her upcoming live recording of composer/conductor Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony at the New Yorker Festival. We also quickly discern that Lydia is heavily reliant on her personal assistant Francesca Lentini (Noemi Merlant) and her wife and concertmaster, Sharon Goodnow (Nina Hoss).
As the moment of her greatest achievement looms, storm clouds begin to brew on the horizon when a former student of Lydia’s named Krista commits suicide. Rumors lurk of a possible inappropriate relationship between the two and Lydia encourages Francesca to delete all emails involving Krista as the deceased girl’s parents threaten to sue.
We never get to know Krista nor the exact details of her relationship with Lydia, only rumors and innuendo. The one point of validation the story provides is that Lydia becomes drawn towards a young Russian cellist, which causes fractures to form in Lydia’s marriage with Sharon. Lydia is also shown to be a bit of an egotistical bully who begins to lose her grip on reality. The final straw is a newspaper article that accuses her in the court of public opinion as being a predator, which in turn threatens her career.
Classical musicophiles will undoubtedly love the film’s musicality and the nuanced intricacies portrayed between a conductor and orchestra. Those who are not could be lost by it all. The true strength of writer/director Todd Field’s work is his dialogue as it rivals the genius of Aaron Sorkin. Its richness is second to none even though the story itself can at times be as dry as burned up toast and a little vague.
The true star of the show, of course, is Blanchett who delivers Field’s words with epic perfection. The demands of her are high with some fairly long scenes yet she succeeds time after time. Blanchett makes us simultaneously dislike Lydia while also being intrigued by her. Ultimately, she is a pitiable character as she loses everything because of assumptions and rumors not based on any hard evidence.
“Tar” receives 3.5 stars out of 5.