Early in his review of Todd Field‘s Tar, New Yorker critic Richard Brody reveals a clear, nonsensical bias against the anti-wokester crowd (i.e., people like me).

He does so by using the expression “so-called” twice in a single sentence: “Tar is a regressive film,” he writes, “that takes bitter aim at so-called cancel culture and lampoons so-called identity politics.”

In short, Brody’s use of “so-called” means he’s highly suspicious of even the existence of wokeism and cancel culture, which of course completely invalidates his review of Tar.

A good portion of Field’s film deals with wokester investigations of improper sexual behavior on the part of Lydia Tar (Cate Blanchett), and so Brody being highly skeptical of even the presence of woke terror is like a critic reviewing a James Bond film while holding a view that there are no such things as guns.

Tar, says Brody, “presents Lydia as an artist who fails to separate her private life from her professional one, who allows her sexual desires and personal relationships to influence her artistic judgment — which is, in turn, confirmed and even improved under that influence.

“[Tar] presents the efforts to expand the world of classical music to become more inclusive, by way of commissioning and presenting new music by a wider range of composers, as somewhere between a self-sacrificing gesture of charity and utterly pointless. It mocks the concept of the blind audition (intended to prevent gatekeeping conductors, musicians, and administrators from making decisions on the basis of appearance). It sneers at the presumption of an orchestra to self-govern (which the one that Lydia unmistakably conducts in the film, the Berlin Philharmonic, does in real life). It derisively portrays a young American conducting student named Max (Zethphan Smith-Gneist), who identifies as ‘a bipoc pangender person,’ and who says that he can’t take Bach seriously because he was a misogynist. The film looks at any social station and way of life besides the money-padded and the pristinely luxurious as cruddy, filthy, pathetic.”

The slightly puzzling fact is that Tar doesn’t portray Lydia as a pure victim (although she is certainly pounced upon and destroyed by woke-deferring officials within the Berlin and New York orchestras) but also as a catalyst. So Tar is simultaneously saying the wokesters are beasts of prey but also that Lydia made her own bed.

Brody: “The film seems to want it both ways: it sustains Lydia’s perspective regarding music, her professional relationships, and her daily aesthetic, while carefully cultivating ambiguity regarding what Lydia is charged with, in order to wag a finger at characters who rush to judgment on the basis of what’s shown (or, what isn’t).

“By eliminating the accusations, Field shows which narrative he finds significant enough to put onscreen. By filtering Lydia’s cinematic subjectivity to include disturbing dreams but not disturbing memories, he shows what aspect of her character truly interests him. By allowing her past to be defined by her résumé, he shows that he, too, is wowed by it and has little interest in seeing past it.”

Like the film, Brody himself seems to want it both ways.