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Quick Review: TAR
The Latest From Todd Field
The following is my review for the film TAR. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I score films when I review them.
The film, set in the international world of classical music, centers on Lydia Tár, widely considered one of the greatest living composer/conductors and the first-ever female chief conductor of a major German orchestra.
Todd Field is one of those Directors that is going to make you wait for whatever he has in store for us next. He’s only directed two other films before TAR with In The Bedroom and Little Children. The last one having been released a whopping sixteen years ago.
And boy what a return its been with the film festival ovations and critical plaudits streaming in for his new movie - with talk of its lead in Cate Blanchett being a sure-fire Oscar nominee and perhaps even the frontrunner to win the award already. To say there’s been a lot of hype and love for this movie would be understating it.
So did I join the bandwagon when I finally got my eyes on it? The answer is a happy yes.
Blanchett’s performance is everything its been sold as. Its easily one of the best of the year, if not the best, delivering such a raw performance that I found myself listening intently to her character from the very first scene where she is being interviewed as if she were a real human being that existed in the realm of our reality. I was both intimidated by Lydia and in awe at what I was witnessing from Cate. She truly is the movie’s entire being, and is perhaps singel-handily what makes the plot work so well.
But there’s also good supporting turns from Nina Hoss as Lydia’s wife Sharon, and Noémie Merlant of Portrait Of A Lady On Fire fame as her assistant Francesca. The way each of their character’s relationship with our protagonist changes as she digs herself into deeper and deeper holes are key moments that drive the third act to be as effective as it is.
And Todd Field’s direction and attention to detail in his storytelling was amazing as well. I was so enwrapped in this world of classical music that I was just as intrigued by it as much as I was by Lydia’s fall from grace. I never found the moments of interviews, casual conversations, and scenes of Lydia working with her orchestra to develop a score boring. It doesn’t matter if this world is foreign to you, Field’s writing will make you feel like you know all about it by the time its runtime is spent. I felt like I was learning every bit as I was being entertained.
I expected to be impressed with Blanchett’s performance, but I wasn’t expecting to be as wrapped up in this world Field wrote about and from the literal first line of dialogue he, and Cate herself, had me hooked. This might not be for everyone, but for me I felt like I was watching the most interesting character study since perhaps, dare I say, There Will Be Blood. This is without a shadow of a doubt one of my favorite movies of this year and easily my favorite film from Field’s directorial career so far.