TÁR*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film starts with Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) getting ready for an interview with Adam Gopnik in New York City. As Lydia is a world-renowned composer-conductor, Gopnik lists off all of her accomplishments, which include being the first female chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. Lydia is currently promoting her upcoming live recording of Gustav Mahler’s 5th Symphony. During the interview, Lydia also talks with Gopnik about her mentorship under Leonard Bernstein and her other influences. In the audience is Lydia’s trusted assistant Francesca Lentini (Noemie Merlant).
Lydia meets with Eliot Kaplan (Mark Strong), another conductor who manages a program for aspiring female conductors that Lydia founded, although Lydia considers expanding the program to male musicians as well. She talks to him about potentially replacing her assistant conductor Sebastian Brix (Allan Corduner), possibly with Francesca. The two also discuss Eliot’s own aspirations for conducting.
Lydia goes to give a class at Julliard. She speaks to the head conducting student, Max (Zethphan Smith-Gneist), and tries to get him to take influence from older composers like Bach. Max declines since he views Bach as a misogynist and isn’t comfortable with taking influence from someone that stands against his politics. While Lydia attempts to get the class to separate the artists’ works from their personal lives, she makes an insulting comment toward Max, causing him to storm off and call Lydia a bitch in front of the class.
While in Berlin, Lydia receives a copy of the novel “Challenge,” sent by another young conductor, Krista Taylor (Sylvia Flote), who has a past relationship working under Lydia. Francesca mentions receiving messages from Krista for Lydia, the latest one being more “desperate” than before, but Lydia tells Francesca to ignore her. Lydia also disposes of the book when she sees it’s from Krista.
Lydia returns to her home that she shares with her wife Sharon (Nina Hoss) and their adopted daughter Petra (Mila Bogojevic). Sharon tells Lydia that she thinks Petra is having problems at school and that she comes home with bruises on her shins. Lydia takes Petra to school and confronts her bully, a girl named Johanna (Alma Lohr). Lydia threatens Johanna with retaliation if she continues to bother Petra, and makes it clear she can get away with it because she’s an adult. Petra later confirms that Johanna has stopped bothering her.
As Lydia prepares for the upcoming concert recording, she meets a new young orchestra cellist, Olga Metkina (Sophie Kauer), to whom Lydia becomes attracted to. She begins to spend time with her over lunch and invites her over to practice at her home.
Francesca goes into Lydia’s room, crying and in distress. She shows her an article stating that Krista has committed suicide. Lydia comforts Francesca but then checks her emails and tries to delete them, as she had repeatedly sabotaged Krista’s career by blacklisting her and telling other hopeful mentors and directors to turn her away, citing mental health issues. Krista’s emails to Lydia were desperately asking her to fix the problem until she gave up.
Lydia meets with Sebastian to inform him that she is rotating him and looking for his replacement. He figures she is looking toward Francesca since Lydia is implied to be attracted to her, and Sebastian tells her that everybody knows about what Lydia does with young female conductors. When Lydia fires back at him, Sebastian quickly backs down. Lydia also holds auditions for a replacement cellist despite seemingly having eyed another woman for the position (she expresses reluctant acceptance at the auditions). The part goes to Olga.
Lydia experiences bizarre nightmares, where she is hearing a constant ticking of a metronome, or one where she is jogging and hears a frightful screaming sound.
When news of Krista’s suicide spreads, Lydia is warned that allegations are being levied against her in relation to the incident. She speaks with a lawyer, who informs her there will be a deposition.
Lydia drops Olga off at what is supposedly her home. When she leaves behind a stuffed animal, Lydia follows her through the alleys to try and find her, but she loses sight of Olga. Lydia then becomes frightened by a dog and makes a run for it, only to trip, running up the stairs and severely injuring her face and shoulder. When she returns to continue practicing, she lies and tells people that she was attacked. She then privately meets with Francesca to inform her that she will not be picked as Sebastian’s replacement. She later up and quits on Lydia without a word.
Lydia experiences discomfort with her next-door neighbor, who is caring for her ailing mother. The neighbor knocks on Lydia’s door and requires help in getting her mother back in her wheelchair after she fell and soiled herself, to Lydia’s disgust.
When Lydia goes to New York for the deposition, she encounters more problems like an edited video from her class at Julliard taken out of context to make her seem crass and predatory, along with an article in the New York Post about her involvement in Krista’s suicide. She is hounded by angry protesters at her book signing, and Olga, whom she brought along, goes off on her own without Lydia. Sharon tries to talk to Lydia about her problems but feels that their relationship is transactional and that the only person she cares for besides herself is Petra.
At the deposition, it is implied that Francesca sent plaintiffs the emails between Lydia and Krista to expose her. As a result, Eliot drops Lydia as a client. When Lydia tries to meet Petra at school, Sharon takes the girl away from her, ending her relationship with Lydia despite her pleas.
Lydia begins to lose her composure. The landlord tells her that they are trying to sell one of the apartments and are bothered by the music that Lydia plays, so she obnoxiously begins to play and mock the landlord’s dead mother.
Lydia is removed from her conductor position but sneaks into the recording of Mahler’s 5th to rush the stage and tackle Eliot (her replacement) off the podium. She then attempts to conduct on her own, but when Eliot tries to stop her, she attacks him further until she is pulled offstage.
Lydia’s crisis management team advises her to lay low and restart from the ground up. She travels to her old childhood home and goes to her room, where she watches tapes of Leonard Bernstein conducting, and she is moved to tears. She then comes across her brother Tony (Lee R Sellars), who refers to her by her real name, Linda.
Lydia takes a new job in Thailand, where she is set to start over. She gets to know the area and decides to stop at a massage parlor. However, when she sees that it is a brothel, she becomes unnerved and goes outside to throw up.
The final scene shows Lydia starting her new job, working as a conductor for an orchestra for a “Monster Hunter” cosplayer convention.
Lydia Tár is a world-renowned composer-conductor with a not-so-secret history of seducing young female conductors in exchange for favors. This comes back to haunt her when one of the women, Krista Taylor, commits suicide after Lydia sabotaged her career and had her blacklisted, claiming she had mental health issues.
After turning down her assistant Francesca for a higher position, Francesca quits and takes part in exposing Lydia by sending the legal team emails between Lydia and Krista. Lydia's attempts to latch onto another young cellist, Olga, prove futile since Olga is privy to Lydia's tricks and brushes her off. Her marriage with her wife Sharon is also ruined, and she takes their adopted daughter Petra away. This culminates in Lydia breaking down and attacking her replacement and colleague Eliot off the podium during the live recording of Gustav Mahler's 5th Symphony that she was set to conduct.
Lydia is advised to lay low as her position in the Berlin Philharmonic has been stripped away, and her life is in shambles. She moves to Thailand and begins working as a conductor for the soundtrack to the "Monster Hunter" video game series.