Powerhouse performance in Tar, Call Jane a call to action, My Policeman a complicated love story

Miscalculation keeps Tar from greatness

Filmmaker Todd Field knows that the more heinous the villain, the greater the satisfaction we get in seeing them fall. This simple but satisfying precept is at the foundation of Tar, a fictional portrayal of a groundbreaking classical music conductor who falls victim to her own hubris. Cate Blanchett gives a powerhouse performance in the title role, fully immersing herself in the world of classical music as well as her character's narcissistic behavior.

Running nearly two-and-a-half hours, Field takes his time – sometimes too much – to set up Tar's place in the world, a darling of those who read The New Yorker and know the intricacies of each Mozart concerto. It's rarified air and she soars about, basking in the admiration of the fans and sycophants that surround her. However, her world comes tumbling down when past indiscretions are revealed, making her a victim of today's Cancel Culture.

It's a fascinating story, but Field undercuts himself by not focusing more on where Tar comes from and who she really is. We get a brief glimpse of this in the film's final 20 minutes, and it proves too little, too late. This miscalculation prevents this fine movie from being a classic. In theaters.

Timely Jane an effective call to action

Phyliss Nagy's Call Jane is a story about one woman's awakening, a housewife who comes to realize that she has a far greater purpose than simply making sure the carpet is swept. Joy (Elizabeth Banks) is quite happy being a 1960s suburban homemaker. However, when an unexpected pregnancy occurs that threatens her life, she's forced to take matters into her own hands when she can't obtain a legal abortion. After fleeing the dingy locale of a back-alley abortion, Joy sees a flyer imploring women in her situation to "Call Jane" for help.

She discovers "Jane" is, in fact, a group of women who help others attain safe abortions. The de facto ringleader is Virginia (Sigourney Weaver), a vital piece of casting, as the veteran actor's sense of strength and compassion are necessary to convince us this woman is capable of transforming Joy, who joins the collective and ultimately learns how to perform abortions herself. At times, the film comes off as a bit simplistic in its narrow view of this issue; however, this is Banks' best work, as she makes Joy's transformation from sideline player to an agent of change wholly convincing.

Unfortunately, Jane is a timely film, one that reminds us that no matter what the circumstances, the women of this country will take care of themselves, despite the government's best efforts to stop them. In theaters.

Policeman quietly breaks your heart

Much goes unexplained during the opening moments of Michael Grandage's My Policeman, as we witness an elderly stroke victim being moved into a modest seaside home. That would be Patrick (Rupert Everett), and he's being taken care of by Marion (Gina McKee), their relationship a difficult one. The third inhabitant of the home, Tom (Linus Roache), turns a cold shoulder to them both, content to walk his dog and little else.

A flashback taking place some 40 years ago offers some clues to this dynamic. A young police officer, Tom (Harry Styles), meets Marion (Emma Corrin) while on holiday, sparking a relationship that surprises them both, leading to a marriage. However, he fails to mention he's in love with Patrick (David Dawson), a museum director and purveyor of the arts.

Grandage's pacing could be a bit tauter, some scenes running a bit too long, others needless and excisable. Still, the mystery about how the young, energetic trio of the past becomes the dour modern-day threesome is an intriguing question that keeps the viewer hooked until the end. There's a great deal of pain and anguish for all concerned and the hope offered is slight and, in some ways, conciliatory. Yet, there's no other way Policeman can end, its characters caught in a world that refuses to understand them, a love story that proves more poignant than anticipated. Streaming on Amazon Prime.

About The Author

Chuck Koplinski

Writing for Illinois Times since 1998, Chuck Koplinski is a member of the Critic's Choice Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association and a contributor to Rotten Tomatoes. He appears on WCIA-TV twice a week to review current releases and, no matter what anyone says, thinks Tom Cruise's version of The Mummy...

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