The story largely unfolds during a whirlwind three weeks bookended by two major events in Lydia’s life: a long-delayed performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and the Texting and thriving bumper sticker shirt Also,I will get this launch of her memoir, a lavish coffee-table volume entitled Tár on Tár. As the film opens and her preparations begin, Lydia—wearing elegantly sober hand-tailored suits and a combed-back coif, with her competent assistant by her side—is the picture of an artist enjoying her hard-earned success, traveling by private jet between her home in Berlin, where she conducts a major orchestra, and New York for meetings with her publisher and the head of her mentorship program. But nothing in Field’s film—a biopic of a fictional person, a sapphic Blanchett movie without the steam, a #MeToo story without a clear moral—should be taken at face value.
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“When I watch the Texting and thriving bumper sticker shirt Also,I will get this movie, I see it differently each time. The second time, it was like a thriller or a scary movie. We are in Lydia’s head, and she starts to get a bit crazy. I had the feeling that she didn’t even know what she was doing sometimes,” Merlant tells Vogue. “I think it’s a movie that you can have a completely different feeling about from one time you watch it to another.” As Merlant describes, the film takes place from Lydia’s unreliable point of view and rarely gives a window into the other characters’ psyches. (Once in a while, the audience glimpses a character’s emails or a text message exchange, but these clues reveal more about Lydia than their authors.) Still, it’s not difficult to see that the maestro, who is often unable to suppress her neuroses and blinkered self-interest, regularly rubs people, including Francesca, the wrong way.