And the Award Goes to: “Tár”

Lucas Cohen-d'Arbeloff, Print Managing Editor

The issue with Todd Field’s “Tár” is not its performances — Cate Blanchett and the supporting cast are undeniably talented — but instead its exasperating drive to intrigue us with a meaningless story. The film seems intentionally formulated to subvert expectations and bewilder audiences rather than engage them.

“Tár” follows the fictional character Lydia Tár (Blanchett), an American conductor leading the Berlin Philharmonic, from the peak of her career to her eventual downfall after facing accusations of sexual predation. The opening scene of the film is an interview with Tár at The New Yorker Festival, and from then on, it feels as though the audience is simply expected to be in awe of her. Or, at the very least, we’re supposed to be compelled by her conducting resume and Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony (EGOT) status. But the film never allows us to appreciate her musicianship beyond these superficial markers of greatness. It leaves the audience behind in never showing us how she gained this status in the first place, so I couldn’t bring myself to care. Clocking in at almost three hours long, “Tár” soon becomes excruciating.

“Tár” sets out to explore a variety of social themes, from gender and sexuality to race and cancel culture but fails to say anything substantive about them. It is unwilling to examine these issues beyond a few provocative scenes, and it is so committedly noncommittal on these matters that nothing is gained from their inclusion. There are interesting moments here and there, such as Blanchett’s heated interaction with a pangender student at a Juilliard masterclass. Their value, however, is diluted by the numerous scenes of Blanchett just jogging around Berlin. The second act of “Tár” is essentially a Fitbit commercial.

Rotten Tomatoes will tell you “Tár” is complete, unbridled genius. But that is exactly the film’s problem: It exists only to indulge its creator, please critics and win Oscars, making its audience an afterthought. Academy members, I beg you: Do us all a favor and please don’t reward torturous “Tár” this March.