Starring: Cate Blanchett, Noémie Merlant, Nina Hoss, Sophie Kauer, Julian Glover, Allan Corduner, Mark Strong, Sylvia Flote, Adam Gopnik, Mila Bogojevic, Zethphan Smith-Gniest, Lee Sellars, Sydney Lemmon
Review: Renowned musician Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) is days away from recording the symphony that will elevate her career. When all elements seem to conspire against her, Lydia's adopted daughter Petra (Mila Bogojevic) becomes an integral emotional support for her struggling mother.
Tár is a riveting character study of the ficitonal, titular character, Lydia Tár. With Tár at the height of her career, she seemingly has everything: a loving wife and daughter, a prolific career as a conducter, and the honor of being the first female music director of a German orchestra. But what happens when a person has everything they've ever wanted? What happens when a person's own string of poor decisions causes the world around them to crumble? Tár is masterful in that it builds a world and then slowly burns it to the ground.
This film is full of tension as Lydia's world begins to unravel. The audience experiences this tension and is forced to explore the nuances of several topics at the forefront of modern society. The primary focus here is cancel culture. The #MeToo movement, which has gained steam in recent years, highlights a plethora of high-profile men who's abuse of power has led to a social movement against sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and rape culture, in which people publicize their experiences of sexual abuse or sexual harassment. Some of these men have been found guilty in the court of law, but others have been condemned in the court of public opinion for better or worse. But, the central figure in this story is Lydia, who is a woman who abuses her power as the music director of the Berlin Philharmonic. It's interesting to watch this premise unfold with a woman preying on one of her subordinates, reminding viewers that this can happen to anyone in any circumstance. Lydia's attraction deviates from her wife to Olga Metkina (Sophie Kauer). Olga is a young, promising cellist from Russia who is a new member of the Berlin Philharmonic. The movie never explicitly shows any scenes of sexual indiscretions, but there are plenty of references -- subtle and not so subtle -- that lead the viewer to the conclusion that favors may have been exchanged for promotion. As we learn as the movie progresses, Lydia's behavior with Olga is a pattern of grooming that Lydia had established several times before with young women under her thumb.
Lydia gets so consumed by her ego that she doesn't even realize the important fixtures in her life that are deteriorating, before it's too late. Not only is her marriage affected, but also her relationship with her daughter and those within the realm of classical music who's respect she had previously held. As we watch such a powerful character make decisions without regard for those close to her, the audience and the cast of characters in her world have to learn to separate the art from the artist. Lydia is a world-class composer, but to what degree do we allow her to continue to operate as she does without any real consequences? Or is the consequence her own psychological unravelling as the movie progresses and her past transgressions becoming haunting?
Cate Blanchett is brilliant as Lydia Tár. Blanchett does a fantastic job depicting the multi-faceted personality that Lydia possesses. She's powerful and charismatic at times while also being a character who lacks complete control. She's haunted by her past, she hears voices and is sensitive to sound, and she's emotionally scarred. To play both sides of Lydia Tár so seamlessly is truly remarkable. The music is also a shining light here. This film is nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, but I can absolutely see it winning Best Original Screenplay. The orchestras sound authentic, and the use of music and sound is almost like a secondary character in and of itself.
The only limiting factor that this film has for me is it's re-watchability. It's brilliantly written with amazing acting performances, but it's not a movie that evokes much in terms of happiness. It's a continuous fall-from-grace film that starts at the top and ends at rock bottom. Tár is a wonderful work of art, but one that can be appreciated with just one watch. With that said, it is absolutely worth your viewing, and it's accolades are most definitely deserved.