You know you’re in the midst of awards season when Cate Blanchett is killing it for nearly three hours in a film with no explosions or superheroes. One of the first solid films of the awards season is TÁR, from writer/director Todd Field. It follows famed orchestra conductor, Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett), as a somewhat mysterious scandal slowly unravels.
First and foremost, Blanchett carries TÁR for nearly the full runtime of the film. She’s in almost every scene, and her performance is as nuanced as it is relatable (at least until it gets dark and she’s no longer relatable). The supporting cast gives it their all as well, with Nina Hoss stepping in as Tár’s wife Sharon, and Noémie Merlant playing Tár’s assistant Francesca. Mark Strong also delivers a strong, but limited performance as fellow conductor, Elliot Kaplan.
At the beginning of TÁR, there are some odd scenes, but otherwise everything seems somewhat normal. Lydia Tár is a bit compulsive, but that seems natural for an artist of her stature. As the torrid mystery is slowly revealed, some of the more obscure scenes start to bear meaning.
There’s a very long, slow build up in TÁR before everything comes crashing down. While the film makes every attempt to build suspense, it just can’t sustain the tension for the full 2 hours and 38 minutes. In fact, everything about the movie is wonderful aside from two main issues. The first is that the film is entirely too long. Field seemingly could have shaved off 20-30 minutes without having any kind of negative impact on the plot. In fact, if the film moved a bit faster, it may have been able to maintain the tension better.
The second issue is that when the eventual turn happens, it’s a quick fall and then the movie is suddenly over. Unfortunately, the audience doesn’t get spend much time reveling in what just happened. There’s no time for the events toward the end of the film to sink in, which is odd given the nearly three hour runtime. Meanwhile, Field spends what seems like an eternity in a single classroom scene that would have had the same impact if it were only a few minutes in length.
Blanchett’s exceptional performance is not enough to keep an audience engaged for the full runtime, but that doesn’t stop her from trying. She carries the film on her back, enthralling the viewer with her sometimes quirky, mostly closed off personality, while still maintaining a brilliance, both in acting, and in her character’s conducting ability.
There are some unexplained events that almost feel like they should’ve been in a different movie, once again beckoning for a shorter runtime, but with better editing this film could be a real Oscar contender. As it stands, Blanchett could easily get a nomination for her work here, with a possible supporting actress nomination for Hoss or Merlant, but the film is unlikely to garner many awards aside from these.
It’s certainly not unheard of for a movie to be longer than two and a half hours, but in this case that length simply wasn’t needed. With that said, if you have nearly three hours to burn on a drawn out, but mostly entertaining drama, you could certainly do worse than TÁR. It may be better served to watch when it’s streaming online in a few months, but the movie as a whole is worth it.
Synopsis: Set in the international world of Western classical music, the film centers on Lydia Tár, widely considered one of the greatest living composer-conductors and first-ever female music director of a major German orchestra.
Director: Todd Field
Writer: Todd Field
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Noémie Merlant, Nina Hoss
Runtime: 2 Hours, 38 Minutes
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.