Monday, March 06, 2023

Best Movies of 2022, #5: Tar

Most movies this year were long. This one was especially long (though there is a longer movie yet to come on this list!) Did this movie really need to be 2 hours and 38 minutes? It begins very slow. The first ten minutes is just David Remnick interviewing Cate Blanchett’s character for the New Yorker Festival. This is followed by a very long lunch scene between Blanchett and Mark Strong. I was thinking, “Geez, this movie is in no hurry to get started.”

I try to avoid knowing about movies before I see them these days, and just rely on trusted people to tell me what I should see. All I knew about this movie was that it was some sort of MeToo story, but I was an hour in and there was no hint of such a story (Although later we realize there were some very subtle hints) Eventually, the plot gets underway in the second hour and the story picks up momentum.

So why is this movie on my list? Because I don’t think the last 90 minutes of the movie would have been so good if the first 70 minutes hadn’t been so …let’s say deliberate.

The whole game of this movie is that writer-director Todd Field looked at MeToo and asked “How can I really make the audience feel the pain of a perpetrator being taken down, despite showing that they’re definitely guilty?”

His most cynical choice, of course, was to tell the story of a woman sexually harassing other women, rather than trying to make us feel for a male perpetrator. That did a lot of the work for him, but it wouldn’t have been enough on its own.

I think his best choice was to spend that first 70 minutes really exploring the idea of greatness. It begins as a very relaxed movie about a woman supremely confident about her place atop her world. We spend that time coming to share in her self-assurance, then we painfully feel for her as it all comes apart.

Ultimately, this movie is on the list because of Blanchett’s jaw-dropping performance.  She’s already won a bunch of times and Michelle Yeoh never has, but I would have a hard time not voting for Blanchett.     

The one false note I thought the movie was the deceptively edited video from her class that gets put on the internet. Field’s already got us on board with having sympathy for a guilty perpetrator, but then he puts his thumb on the scales by having her be unfairly smeared by her students, in addition to entirely fair accusations of sexual harassment she’s already facing. The edited video has a “cancel culture is bullshit” element that wasn’t needed. It muddies the message.

I can’t recommend enough that everyone check out the WTF interview with Field. He’s had a fascinating life. When he was a kid, he invented Big League Chew and never saw a dime from it!

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