Patience and a receptive brain are required to fully engage with Blanchett's searing portrait of a highly successful woman who's in tune with everything but herself. As Tár's world building begins, writer-director Todd Field immerses viewers in Lydia Tár's environment, where a five-syllable word is chosen over a simple one every time and names of concertos and prestigious musicians are discussed at length. The niche setting and initially slow pace (the film opens with the full credits -- catering, production accountant, the whole shebang -- on a black screen) will undoubtedly strain the spirit of antsy teens, even those interested in the topic. But once the film gets past establishing Tár as a genius beyond measure, the pace picks up to the point that the long run time isn't felt.
Blanchett is almost always magnificent, but here she proves herself an absolute master of the craft. As a maestra, she wields the baton, speaks about musical technique, and plays the piano with cogency. And Lydia Tár is a complete original: A female character who's deeply complex, utterly unrelatable, intriguing, mesmerizing, and reprehensible. This is a #MeToo story told from the point of view of the powerful predator. If the main character was a man, audiences might not want to sit with the character for nearly three hours. But it's hard not to question the choice of telling this story from a lesbian's point of view. Cinema has often vilified queer characters, and, by and large, most crimes of sexual coercion and abuse of power are still perpetrated by men. The movie market isn't yet saturated with these stories, so why paint a woman as the Weinstein of the classical music world? Field's film is excellent, and Blanchett is exceptional, but it's hard not to worry that the attention that will undoubtedly accompany such a remarkable piece of work will undermine public perception of a historically underrepresented, often maligned group of women.