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TÁR Review | Cate Blanchett’s Performance Hits All the Right Notes

NYFF: Cate Blanchett steals the show in bloated musical drama that occasionally loses the beauty of its melody.

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For starters, the second time truly is the charm as my second screening of TÁR was (fortunately) not interrupted and called off due to issues with the projector. Imagine how confused I — and all of the Philly critics — were when the sound came on sans picture. In fairness, because TÁR is a film about a musical artist, I thought that the blank screen serving as the backdrop for a beautiful song was an artistic choice. I must not have been the only one, however, because it took about five minutes before it became clear that this was not the case.

Unfortunately, TÁR feels like a film that I should love because it’s one of these artistic “Oscar-worthy” films rather than a film that I fell in love with on my own merit. I can see it being a lot like last year’s The Power of the Dog, which I quite like to be clear. The film will resonate with many, and I’m truly happy for that, but it just did very little for me outside of its technical aspects and Cate Blanchett, who dazzles in her performance. Blanchett plays the fictional Lydia Tár and we examine the rise and fall of this world-renowned composer. But one performance can’t save a film that drowns itself out — much like the audacious musical performances in the film — by its crescendo. 

Cate Blanchett stars as Lydia Tár in director Todd Field’s TÁR, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

Blanchett is stellar as Lydia Tár and I think that we’ve finally found a common ground that everyone can agree on I’m sure that we’ve all played the role of a conductor in our heads as children — using pencils or our fingers instead of a baton — but Blanchett lives it in this performance. The sheer intensity that she displays whenever she is shown conducting in this film just pops off of the screen and it’s in these moments that I would find myself forgetting that Blanchett is playing a role and not actually a conductor. And it’s incredible that Blanchett can easily go from a more calm demeanor to completely unhinged while singing a song about her neighbor’s apartment going up for sale with an accordion (this is by far the highlight of the film). 

Florian Hoffmeister’s cinematography, when allowed to have some fun, really stands out. I’ve spoken with Hoffmeister, and that gave me a greater appreciation for the restraint that he shows in his cinematography. One of the instances of this is when Lydia stumbles out of a massage spa and the camera goes from being still to a jarring handheld camera style once she exits the building and the camera follows her. Hoffmeister also does an electric job whenever Lydia takes the stage. It only happens once or twice, but it’s the equivalent of following an NFL quarterback run out of the tunnel for musical artists. The film also ends with a wonderful tracking shot in a theater full of cosplayers.

Clocking in at nearly 2 hours and 40 minutes, TÁR tells the full story of its titular character. Not to be the guy who complains about the runtimes of films, but the film seems to be going for the Drive My Car effect of long-lasting scenes mostly made up of dialogue and only succeeds in the first half of the film. And it’s an admirable effort, sure. Writer-director Todd Field finds a nice balance in the beginning with plenty of scenes that likely last around 10 minutes, but they’re so intrinsically interesting — whether this is due to the performances or the writing is up to you — that the film flies by early on. Once the second half of the film begins, the film finds a much more methodical pace to settle on that teeters between intriguing and dull.

I had heard TÁR described as a “MeToo” story on a podcast or somewhere online, but while there’s no issue with a film handling that — The Assistant and Bombshell are both fine examples of this — TÁR film feels slightly out of touch. In short, Lydia gets wrapped up in a web of trouble that results in a very modern take of canceling. Videos taken from a class are snipped together and conveniently make it seem as if Lydia was vulgarly speaking about masturbation and touching one of her students inappropriately during the class (she was stopping his anxious foot-tapping). This type of editing would get you hired by Wes Anderson, that’s all I’ll say. And I know that this is a small nitpick in the grand scheme of things, but it took me out of the film. The video, paired with the suicide of a woman who reached out to Lydia on a number of occasions, gets her stuck in a web of legal trouble.

Perhaps TÁR is a warning about how you should treat others, or seeing how karma can indeed be a bitch much like Lydia is occasionally shown to be. Whatever the case, TÁR doesn’t exactly hit a home run with its point. For starters, it’s all just thrown in during the final half-hour or so of the film. Yes, the breadcrumbs are laid including a situation involving her assistant (and aspiring conductor) Francesca (Noémie Merlant), but it’s almost as if Field had heard a large number of stories where someone was canceled and chose to infuse all of them into the story. 

And all of this is a means to an end which in this case, is the fall of Lydia. By the end of the film, Lydia has gone from conducting some of the most acclaimed orchestras in the world to traveling in other countries and playing in some sort of event with Donnie Darko cosplayers in the crowd. It’s a tragic ending for a character who was on top of the world in the beginning, and I think it’s quite fitting. The final line spoken is a beautiful note to end on, “Sisters and brothers of the Fifth Fleet, it’s time I keep my farewell brief. Never was much with words, once you board this ship, there’s no turning back. The next ground your feet touch will be that of the new world. If any of you have lost your nerve, then step away now and let no one judge.” I just think how we get there is a different story. 

Cate Blanchett stars as Lydia Tár in director Todd Field’s TÁR, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

The film’s just plodding; there, I said it. You can be an exciting film that moves at a snail’s pace (again, look no further than Drive My Car). TÁR does indeed move at a snail’s pace — especially in the second half — but lacks any urgency until the scenes with the orchestra playing kick in (which will wake you up if you’re at a 10:00 am screening). The first hour and a half are quite good — I had to take a bathroom break and clocked the time and was shocked by how much ground we had covered — and I was in for the ride during this time of the film. What happens between this and when the whole “cancel” subplot kicks in? I could probably struggle to put together a few ideas. And this comes just a couple of hours after the film ended! 

Perhaps due to the fact that TÁR is a film centered around a composer, there’s very little of Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score. Even early on in the dialogue-heavy scenes, very little, if any, music fills the background. This wouldn’t even be a complaint if not for it coming at the expense of Guðnadóttir, but the Oscar winner deserves better and perhaps the concept album that is set to release next year will change my opinion on things. I’d imagine that her talents were in turn used to arrange the actual music that Lydia conducts, I just wish she had even more of a presence.

TÁR is a case of a well-made film that’s perfectly on track to be a big Oscar player. Blanchett really elevates the film past its flaws for the most part, but the elongated runtime really hampers the film. If not for Blanchett, I think that the flaws would be far more glaring; I guess that’s just the benefit of having a generational talent at the forefront. And the attempt at working in a “MeToo” subplot feels too contrived and merely a passage to get the film on a crash course to its final crescendo. 


TÁR held its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 1 and will be released in limited theaters on October 7 before expanding on October 28. 

FILM RATING

Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Review | The Final Serve: ‘Federer: Twelve Final Days’ Offers an Intimate Look at a Tennis Great’s Goodbye

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Federer_Roger
Roger Federer in a still from 'FEDERER: TWELVE FINAL DAYS' (Prime Video)

We have seen a lot of legendary players in the game of Tennis, but only a few have ever matched the charisma of Roger Federer. Apart from winning Grand Slam tournaments, he went on to win people’s hearts every time he stepped inside the court for a game. However, when the Swiss Tennis great announced that he would be taking retirement from the sport, everyone felt it and knew that one of the greatest Tennis players of all time was bidding farewell to the game that he loved so much. So, in the final 12 days of Federer being a Tennis star, directors Asis Kapadia and Joe Sabia followed the sporting icon and witnessed how Federer prepared himself for his last set of matches. Now, the moments captured by the duo have been turned into a documentary called ‘FEDERER: TWELVE FINAL DAYS’ in which fans get to see how the legend said goodbye to the game of Tennis.

(Photo Credit: Prime Video)

From the very beginning, you get to know that you are going to see something special. One of the documentary’s greatest strengths is its unprecedented access to Roger Federer during the pivotal moment in his life. The filmmakers follow him closely and offer viewers an insider’s perspective on his thoughts and feelings as he prepares to bid adieu to something that has defined his life for over two decades. Meanwhile, the candid interviews with Federer reveal an honest man, and at times, vulnerable. His love for the game, his insights into his career, and his contemplation of what comes next are both enlightening and deeply moving.

However, some of the most fascinating things take place in the documentary when viewers get to see Federer’s wife Mirka talking about him and his love for the sport. She is poignant and offers a glimpse into the personal sacrifices and shared experiences that have marked their journey together. On the other hand, the interviews of his chief rivals – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray – add depth and richness to the story, providing a multifaceted view of Federer’s impact on the game and the people who watch him play. Their stories tell you how much they respect each other and the camaraderie they share while being fierce competitors. Kapadia and Sabia, known for their masterful storytelling and ability to delve deep into their subjects’ psyches, have crafted a documentary that transcends the boundaries of a typical sports film. They capture not just the athlete, but the man behind the icon, providing a holistic view of Federer as he navigates the emotional terrain of retirement.  Visually, ‘FEDERER: TWELVE FINAL DAYS’ is stunning. The use of archival footage, and blending it seamlessly with new material to create a compelling story. The scenes, especially, from the Laver Cup are really powerful and beautifully capture the intensity of Federer’s final games.

But not everything about this film is celebratory. Certain moments would make you cry because there is a sense of melancholy as Federer tries to grapple with the fact that he indeed is stepping away from the game that gave him so much. Even with so many positive things, some moments do feel like melodramatic. There are moments when the pacing slows, and the narrative feels somewhat repetitive. Nevertheless, these are minor speedbumps in what is otherwise a beautifully crafted documentary.

Overall, ‘FEDERER: TWELVE FINAL DAYS’ is a captivating documentary that chronicles the journey of one of the greatest athletes of all time. Even if you are not a fan of Roger Federer, you should see this documentary to feel why he was and will always be a LEGEND.

‘Federer: Twelve Final Days’ premiered on Tribeca and will stream exclusively on Prime Video on June 20.

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‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’ Review | A Heartfelt Exploration of Love and Friendship with Outstanding Performances by Greta Bellamacina and Amber Anderson

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Tell That to the Winter Sea
Greta Bellamacina and Amber Anderson in a still from 'Tell That to the Winter Sea' (Kaleidoscope)

It takes time to understand that life is all about learning, growing, and changing. It’s about heartbreaks and dealing with them. Every stage brings new challenges and makes you think if you’ll ever reach your desired destination. In Jaclyn Bethany’s reminiscent drama, Tell That to the Winter Sea, this sentiment is distinctly captured through the touching journey of two characters, Jo (Greta Bellamacina) and Scarlet (Amber Anderson), who find themselves grappling with unresolved pasts.

There have been several movies around female friendships or relationships, but only a few have captured their essence, and Tell That to the Winter Sea is among them. The profoundly moving film starts with bride-to-be Jo (Bellamacina) reading a book while waiting for her school-time friend and first love, Scarlet (Anderson), on a girls’ trip to a country manor. Soon, we get to know that this trip is meant to celebrate Jo’s upcoming marriage. However, as soon as they meet, this trip becomes a moving journey of emotional discovery and unresolved feelings. Even with the festive atmosphere created by the rest of the group, Jo and Scarlet can’t help but deal with the lingering feelings from their shared past.

Tell That to the Winter Sea

Greta Bellamacina as Jo in a still from ‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’ (Kaleidoscope)

Directed by Jaclyn Bethany, the movie does a magnificent job of navigating the delicate terrain of past and present emotions through the eyes of its central characters. One of the primary reasons why this movie feels so personal is because of how authentic it looks. In many ways, we have endured heartbreak in love. Sometimes, we move on, but other times, we keep looking for answers by revisiting those moments. In Tell That to the Winter Sea, both central characters try to show that they have moved on, but in reality, it’s just the opposite and Bethany shows that with utter precision. Meanwhile, the script is a delicate blend of heartfelt dialogue and introspective moments. It’s fair to say that the script is the soul of this powerful drama. The writing shines in its ability to convey the unspoken and unresolved feelings between Jo and Scarlet. Their interactions are loaded with a glaring sense of nostalgia and unspoken yearning, capturing the beautiful essence of what it means to reconnect with your first love after years apart.

Another stunning aspect of the movie is its mesmerizing cinematography. The beautiful frames wonderfully complement the emotional landscape of the story, making the viewers feel like they are a part of the characters’ journey.

Acting-wise, both the film’s central characters are extraordinary in their respective roles. Greta Bellamacina as Jo is breathtaking as she brings a deep emotional resonance to her character and magnificently captures the complexities of love, friendship, and personal growth. One of the most striking things about her performance is how she makes viewers feel about her internal conflicts and struggles. It feels so real, raw, and authentic. She is truly one of the finest actors we have in the industry now. Meanwhile, Amber Anderson shows a wide emotional range and effectively portrays the complexities of her character’s feelings and experiences. Her performance feels deeply connected to her character’s past and present, making the audience empathize with her journey. The chemistry between both stars is mesmerizing, making their shared moments both powerful and poignant.

Tell That to the Winter Sea

Amber Anderson as Scarlet in a still from ‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’ (Kaleidoscope)

The supporting cast – Josette Simon, Jessica Plummer, Tamsin Egerton, and Bebe Cave – is equally compelling and adds depth to the story.

Overall, Tell That to the Winter Sea is a beautifully crafted film that offers a heartwarming and introspective look at love, feelings, and friendship. The film explores themes of the passage of time, and the bittersweet nature of moving forward is handled with a sensitive approach. It is a deeply affecting and memorable cinematic experience. For those who appreciate a thoughtful and emotionally resonant film, Tell That To The Winter Sea is an immersive watch.

Tell That to the Winter Sea will be released in UK theatres on May 31.

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X-Men ’97 Review | Nostalgic, Epic & Marvelous!

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X-Men '97 (Disney)

Get ready for action-packed adventure, many surprise cameos and a storyline that takes

Plot

A band of mutants use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them; they’re challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.

X-Men ’97 (Disney)

Review

X-Men ’97 is a revival of the classic 1990s animated television series. The storyline picks up directly after the events of the original series, maintaining continuity and preserving the beloved elements that made the original a hit show back in the day. Many of the original voice cast members have returned, including Cal Dodd as Wolverine, Lenore Zann as Rogue, George Buza as Beast, Alison Sealy-Smith as Storm and Adrian Hough as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, which adds a layer of originality and contributes to the overall nostalgia of the television show​. Here I’m feeling like a little kid again, watching the show on a Saturday morning. I was 7 years old when it was on television in the early mornings, and it still brings back fond memories.

There were a number of new stars who joined the show such as Ray Chase who replaced Norm Spencer as Cyclops, Jennifer Hale who replaced Catherine Disher as Jean Grey, Holly Chou who replaced Alyson Court as Jubilee, A.J. LoCascio as Gambit, Matthew Waterson as Magneto, J.P. Karliak as Morph, Isaac Robinson-Smith as Bishop, Ross Marquand as Professor Charles Xavier and Gui Agustini as Roberto da Costa/Sunspot.

X-Men ’97 (Disney)

The series starts off in a world where the X-Men grapple with the loss of Professor Charles Xavier. Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, Magneto rises to the occasion and becomes the new leader of the X-Men. This provides additional drama and the team dynamics is frequently tested with the new leadership. While dealing with the new leadership dynamics the X-Men finds themselves still dealing with people who would stop at nothing to end all mutants. The storyline doesn’t hold back on the action sequences and themes such as grief, loss and acceptance are touched on throughout the series.

The trailer of the show doesn’t spoil anything for the viewer, and I highly encourage you to watch every intro and try to spot any new changes. The show provides many cameos and easter eggs, keeping my hopes alive of a potential crossover.

The story ends with a twist, leaving you hungry for the next season, and as any Marvel movie or television show would have it, a mid-credits scene to whet your appetite for what’s to come. If you are new to X-Men you can still jump in and watch the television series, but I highly recommend watching the original series to get you up to date with most of the lore and history of the X-Men.

X-Men ’97 keeps the legacy of our favorite mutants alive with a well-written story that is filled with emotion, surprises and promises of more adventures.

Thank you Beau DeMayo for an eXcellent story! I rate this show a 5 out of 5!

Will we skip the intro song? No! I don’t think we will. Make sure to catch the show on Disney Plus!

https://youtu.be/mp1Pax-QHlA?si=-fFlVYBRIPnLQyVO
X-Men ’97 Final Trailer (Marvel Entertainment)

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