Tár: the best fake biopic ever?

Tár: the best fake biopic ever?

Jacob Glass, Contributor

The newly released movie Tár, written and directed by Todd Field, is a thought-provoking biopic. The twist…? Its main character doesn’t actually exist.

The title character Lydia Tár, played by Cate Blanchett, is a wildly successful orchestra conductor and EGOT winner (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards). You learn quickly that Tár is, to put it simply, not that nice of a person. She is a harsh, self-obsessed, and politically incorrect character. However,  where her personality lacks, she makes up for with her genius. Her skill in conducting is unmatched and her composing abilities are also well acclaimed.

To best explain this movie, I have to preface by saying Tár is a complex character. We first meet her as she is doing an interview with The New Yorker in front of an audience at a concert venue. She talks about her mentor, Leonard Bernstein, the release of her upcoming book, and plans for her next concert—one that was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic (another aspect that makes you believe this film is a part of reality). When she is asked about her identity as a woman, she seems to be unappreciative of the question, saying that she doesn’t think it is more difficult for a woman in classical music to reach the success that male composers do. 

This is a recurring idea, her belief that identity is irrelevant. It is especially evident in a scene with a student at Julliard, where she invalidates his discomfort with playing a piece by a racist composer and shames him for his feelings in front of the class. 

This is where we start to see her true colors. 

Tár returns to Berlin to prepare for her next big concert. We meet her wife, a member of the Berlin orchestra she is conducting, and her daughter, who is having trouble sleeping and is being bullied by a girl at her school. From there, Tár’s life begins to unravel when a former student of hers dies.

This movie achieves a lot, and it takes the time to do so with a run time of 2 hours and 38 minutes. If you ask me, every minute is necessary for the experience of the film. For me, the standout parts were the orchestra scenes. The sound booms as Tár moves with great intensity while conducting the musicians. If the movie ever loses your attention, the music will certainly bring you back. The cinematography is also outstanding. Whether it’s in a concert hall, a park in Berlin, or Tár’s home, every scene is beautifully captured and provides stunning images.

Not to bring in terminology from my AP Psych class last year, but the best way I can sum up this film is as an observational study of power and cancel culture. Tár is a person obsessed with domination in all settings. She displays her power over all the people in her life—her wife, her colleagues, and even her daughter’s classmate. In all aspects, Tár wants to be in control, which is something that remains true throughout the film and moves the plot forward. 

The film begs questions such as: can people have power and not be corrupted by it? Can we allow artists to be horrible people if they are making life-changing art? Tár encourages us to think about these questions and reflect on the modern culture we are constantly engaging with.

I certainly cannot talk about Tár without talking about its star, Cate Blanchett, who anchors the entire film and gives an unmatched performance. I don’t think anyone else could have played the role. I know I am not the first to say it, in fact, multiple people on my for you page have already said it, but Cate Blanchett is locked in for that best actress Oscar nomination come January, which would be her eighth Oscar nod and possible third win. While I’m still hoping Michelle Yeoh wins the award this year for her performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once (don’t even get me started on this film, it’s the best of the year, no question), I won’t be surprised if Blanchett takes home the Oscar because it would be anything but undeserved.

I obviously highly recommend Tár, but I think there are two ways to approach it, especially if you see it in theaters. You could go into the film with anticipation, expecting a psychological drama, and you will certainly receive that and be impressed. You could also go into the film in a light mood in order to experience the film’s strange humor and campiness. Neither will disappoint you. 

I went the first route and loved it, though I want to go back to see it through a comedic lens. I will say, while I did thoroughly enjoy it, the friend I saw it with did fall asleep, so maybe consider that…? Regardless, Tár is an engaging and magnificent film that is definitely relevant in the “age of social media.” It’s a film made for the time we are living in and will truly make you contemplate. But most importantly, it stars Cate Blanchett as a lesbian, can we ask for anything more???


Rating: ★★★★★

Also, if you see this movie and want to talk to me about how the first 30 minutes were randomly packed with Jewish references, I would love to discuss it!


Follow me on Letterboxd @jacobgla55 for more of my random film thoughts!