Cate Blanchett is Lydia Tár. With her staccato breaths supported by breath cleanser and whisky, she is an orchestral conductor on the edge. However is that edge one of greatness or a precipice falling away to something all the more darker?
Well, with her impatient intellect permanently sizing up those around her, it would seem that her live recording of Mahler’s elusive concerto no. 5 might be the undoing of her. Add to that, her battling against the perceived robots around her who solely go through the motions, and Lydia Tár becomes both a feminist icon and a target for others to gaze upon.
... if she’s not the new Meryl Streep, then she might as well be...
In terms of acting Cate Blanchett’s uncompromising portrayal of a ferociously erudite perfectionist doesn’t stop at the rehearsal room. Equally adept at pushing away the concerns of those nearest to her, including primarily her partner, first violinist, Sharon (as played by Nina Hoss), Blanchett’s baton only ever rests to put both hands around this year’s Best Actress statuette. Such is her clear commitment to this latest role that if she’s not the new Meryl Streep, then she might as well be equal to her if mentioned in the same breath.
As director Todd Field’s film allows nothing to taint Lydia’s artistic focus, it’s clear from the off that this is a tragedy in the unfolding. The cinematography is lushly dour and the sound design and acoustics really warrant witnessing this film in the best auditoria possible.
Yet, when it comes to matters of plot and detail, Tár loses pace with Blanchett’s performance. Sprinklings of supernatural goings-on hint at Lydia’s disintegrating mental state and a subplot involving a beguiling young cellist tries to underline a past riddled with preferential, sexual favours. However, like the gossiping orchestra in front of Tár, you’ll quickly sense the film’s unease as it speedily lurches towards the final act.
Unable and unsure as to how the deal with the accusations that it has set up, Tár becomes a finally executed drama that cannot bear to take the sword to either its lead character or the story it’s trying to tell. As a result, the film fumbles its last notes, undoing all the very laudable efforts of its leading lady at its centre.
That said, see it for Cate Blanchett. See it for the fantastically charged and ego-centric world that the film depicts. Whilst the movie falls short of the greatness that Lydia seeks, Tár is still a quality production – even if the plot’s scenery wobbles upon conclusion.