‘Tar’ Insists Upon Itself As A Bloated, Dull Vanity Project That Screams Oscar Bait

A movie like Tar reminds me of a cross between Black Swan and Whiplash. It’s two and a half hours of a movie about a very unlikable person. But for an actress like Cate Blanchett, she’s used to making these types of movies. Everything about it screams vanity project for Oscar bait. If you’ve seen Blue Jasmine, the movie that won Blanchett her acting Oscar, you’ve already seen this movie.

Marty Scorsese calls Tar true cinema. Why I have to disagree with Marty, he has seen many movies, more than I have, and we have different tastes. I watched this movie through three attempts over a 24-hour period. I must say I was very disappointed. But I can understand what Marty is saying. True cinema are arthouse movies like this about people that don’t really tell you everything you need to know within the first 15 minutes. And I like watching movies where I’m surprised of what’s going to happen.

However, Howard Hawks once said a great movie should contain “three great scenes, no bad scenes.” There are no good scenes in this movie and several bad scenes. This is a movie in which the protagonists runs away from what is a growling dog, trips and hurts herself. But she tells everyone she was attacked. I get that she wants the attention but I groaned. And the ending seems more of an insult that I feel the filmmaker just didn’t give a shit because even he got tired with the plot.

Todd Field wrote and directed the movie. I really, really liked his previous two movies, In the Bedroom and Little Children. And seeing this is his first movie as a director in 16 years, he has lost his touch. He’s trying to be too avant garde here with the pacing, the camera angles and even the storytelling. It almost makes me wonder why filmmakers think musicians and composers need their stories told in this style of filmmaking.

But if you can make it through the first 15 minutes of this movie, you can probably make it through the 157 minutes of its entire run time. If you can sit through an insurance seminar, you can sit through Tar. That doesn’t mean you have to like it. And you probably won’t like Tar. This is the type of movie people with long-hair in braided ponytails and beards who wear nothing but black turtlenecks say they enjoy, but the only reason they enjoy them is that everyone else can’t stand them.

Blanchett plays Lydia Tar, a world-famouscomposer/musician and first female conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. She’s also an extreme narcissist. She’s married to her concertmaster, a violinist named Sharon Goodnow (Nina Hoss). Yet they have the chemistry of a musical stand. She also has an assistant, Francesca Lentini (Noemie Merlant), who may or may not be infatuated with her. She is a guest at the New Yorker Festival where Adam Gopnik, as himself, interviews her and we see Francesca mouthing the same introduction he’s saying probably because she wrote it for him to say.

Lydia goes on a long talk to an audience who doesn’t seem at all interested in Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. The scene reminds me of Ben Stein giving the “Voodoo Economics” speech in Ferris Bueller’s Days Off but stretched out to the point that it sounds like a monotonous instruction on how to set up your DirecTv satallite. And that sets up the whole movie, one long shlog. We see Lydia as a guest teacher a class at the Julliard where she insults a student of color. Like the instructor in Whiplash, she sees nothing wrong with her criticism. Mainly, it’s because music teachers are always portrayed this way in movies because no one has really been in a music class.

Back in Berlin, she becomes interested in a new cellist, Olga Metkina (Sophie Kauer), a Russian who is younger and more attractive than Sharon or Francesca. It’s apparent she’s infatuated with Olga and this might be why Francesca resigns after realizing she won’t be the assistant conductor. She makes thinks more difficult for Lydia that result in emails being sent to Krista Taylor (Sylvia Flote), a former member of Tar’s fellowship program. And Krista commits suicide as people question Lydia’s behavior. Apparently, a similar subplot was in Whiplash, a movie I didn’t really like nor can I really stand.

I was in band from fifth grade to twelfth playing drums and percussion. I have other friends who are more skilled musicians and composers. This is not how they behave. This is another generic movie painting people of a certain profession a certain way they are. There’s no tortured soul. There’s no vanity and narcissism. Music lovers love music, a lot of music, not just one genre. And I can’t watch this without thinking of Seinfeld’s “The Maestro” where Mark Metcalf made fun of this stereotype of music conductors.

Tar is the approrpriate title for this movie, because it’s a stain on so much. The fact that there’s a controversy over the independent movie To Leslie in which the actress Andrea Riseborough’s nomination is being question shows what’s wrong with the Oscars. Tar was released through Focus Pictures, a Comcast company. Of course, it’s going to get a lot of attention at the Oscars and with critics.

Two other actresses in 2022 gave better performances than Blanchett. The first is Aubrey Plaza in Emily the Criminal. Plaza was able to shun the “weird girl” roles she was getting and give us a great role that hopefully opens new opportunities. The other is Mia Goth in Pearl, a pscyhological thriller that was shamelessly marketed as a slasher. It’s no different than this movie. I would’ve much rather seen Plaza or Goth with a nomination rather than Blanchett’s terrible overacting.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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