Tar Review

Musical biopics are one of my favorite genres of film. They are able to show a side of musicians that most people don’t know about. Sometimes the not-so-good things in their lives come out in these films. Tar is a new film about a famous composer that feels like a biopic, but it’s not. It’s one of the most realistic movies depicting a musician that isn’t true. That is what makes the performance given by Cate Blanchett that much more amazing.

Lydia Tar (Cate Blanchett), is two time Academy Award Winner for The Aviator and Blue Jasmine, is a famous composer leading the Berlin philharmonic orchestra. The problem with being the leader of such a musical fellowship is that there are a lot of duties besides creating the next performance they will be doing. In this case, it’s a live recording of Maler’s 5th symphony. Her job requires her to hire and fire new and older members. As well as becoming close with members of the orchestra. This can be a detriment to the overall working relationship between the orchestra and its members.

Cate Blanchett is a two-time academy award winner for a reason. She is a great actress. And once again she gives a phenomenal performance as this woman who has it all. A wife, a child, and a very successful job as a symphony orchestra conductor. That all starts to unravel when a suicide of a previous member of the orchestra is reported in the New York Post. This article puts the finger on Blanchett’s character as the reason why this woman committed suicide. Everything in her life becomes unimaginably difficult from this point forward. Blanchett shows why she is such a great actress in the first half of the film but the second half is a bit disjointed and odd.

This film is a typical look at a woman who has it all and her life comes crashing down on her but Blanchett isn’t the only one who creates this story and makes it so believable. Nina Hoss plays her wife and she is beside herself with the way the suicide news has affected their family. Noemie Merlant (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) plays Francesca Lentini Blanchett’s character’s assistant but she is also a fledgling conductor herself. When things start to unravel for Blanchett’s character she suspiciously disappears without a trace. And Mark Strong plays a rival conductor who wishes he could be as good as Blanchett’s character. But can’t hold a candle to her success or skill as a conductor. This cast is fantastic and I haven’t mentioned everybody in the movie.

Going back to why this film is so great once again. Blanchett has two great scenes at the beginning of the movie one involving an interview where she is answering questions ala James Lipton of In the Actors Studio where the interviewer is asking her about her career and her accomplishments. The way Blanchett answers these questions is incredible. She has so much dialogue this entire segment of the movie blew me away and it’s the beginning of the movie. She mentions so much about other conductors and their music it’s almost like she really was a conductor. The other scene that cemented this as one of the best performances of the year is where she is filling in for a colleague and she gets into a philosophical argument with a student about specific music and the conductor who made it and why the student is biased against these specific conductors. She basically dresses this college student for his sexual preference and his beliefs ala the beginning of The Newsroom where Jeff Daniels undresses a reporter in the first episode of that great show. Blanchett is the frontrunner for best actress after this great performance.

Todd Field, the director of Little Children and In the Bedroom, hasn’t directed a movie in almost seventeen years. His latest film is almost like he has never stopped making films this entire time. He wrote the script as well. He seems to have a grasp on this type of classical music like no other director before him. With the help of Academy Award winner Hildur Gudnadotir, The Joker, they make this movie come alive with all the music performed in it and of course conducted by Blanchett’s character. This is like the companion to the acting of Blanchett and the others in the cast. Field puts it all together to make a great film.

Tar is a film where a great actress such as Blanchett once again shows why she is such a renowned actress. She gives the performance of the year as this woman who seemingly has it all until her life starts to crumble before her eyes. Todd Field the director just has to get out of the way of Blanchett. The musical elements of this film are spot on. So much so that I thought this character was a real person. That’s how realistic this film and the performances by Blanchett and the rest of the cast are. The music by Hildur Gudnadottir is phenomenal as well. All the music sounded great! 

4 ½ stars 

Dan Skip Allen

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