Maestro (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Bradley Cooper, written by Josh Singer and Bradley Cooper and starring Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Matt Bomer, Sarah Silverman, Maya Hawke, Vincenzo Amato, Greg Hildreth, Michael Urie, Josh Hamilton, Brian Klugman, Nick Blaemire, Mallory Portnoy, Alexandra Santini, Jarrod LaBine, Kate Eastman, William Hill, Valery Lessard and Renee Stork.
Bradley Cooper immerses himself in the role of composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein in the moving and beautifully made, Maestro. This film showcases scenes in both black and white and in color with equally fine results. It features an amazing performance by Cooper that is impossible to forget and the actor puts all his heart and energy into creating Bernstein as a passionate man who lived for his art and loved people to a fault. Cooper also directed the movie and Carey Mulligan portrays Bernstein’s actress wife, Felicia Montealegre. There is no doubt that Leonard and Felicia’s relationship was unconventional but the movie portrays it in such a captivating way that one can easily understand the power of their love for one another. Bernstein was bisexual and loved men and women but Felicia was the ultimate love of his life.
Maestro is a work of the highest quality. Cooper’s performance will transfix the viewer from the moment he first appears on-screen right until the last moments of the picture. How did Cooper manage to create Bernstein’s mannerisms and capture all his distinctive characteristics? Hours and hours of work must have gone into creating this performance. The makeup also helps significantly. As biopics go, Maestro ranks at the very top of the list as it displays to the viewer all the pain and passion that Bernstein possessed during his lifetime.
Most people know Bernstein for West Side Story but the details of his personal life are vividly brought into view in Cooper’s movie. Matt Bomer serves as David Oppenheim, Bernstein’s lover at the beginning of the movie which is in black and white. Bernstein gets a call that will forever change his life as he is asked to cover for another. musician. When Bernstein approaches his goals in life, he often seems full of optimism. When he meets Felicia, he is immediately intrigued and the two seem to have a powerful connection right from the start.
One scene with Bernstein dressed as a sailor is particularly charming and wonderfully placed in the beginning stages of the movie. It sets the stage for the development of the main character’s energetic personality. Bernstein confesses he loves people so much at one point in the film and that he needs them like he does oxygen to fulfill his daily endeavors. Bernstein’s work was nothing short of breathtaking. The most crucial scene to understanding the determination of Bernstein comes in a scene where he conducts the London Symphony Orchestra. Cooper is masterful in this sequence, capturing the intensity of the artist’s work as he most energetically leads his musical entourage to triumph. Bernstein’s blood, sweat and tears are all vividly demonstrated in this most important scene in a film full of heart and energy.
Mulligan and Cooper share a scene of disagreement between their characters which is filmed mostly as a long shot. It’s such an important and pivotal sequence because it unveils a distinct problem in the relationship that Felicia and Leonard had together. This part of the movie features some of the best acting you’ll see at the cinema this year.
There is a nicely assembled supporting cast with two female standouts. As Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie, Maya Hawke is solid. We feel the nervousness of her character thanks to Hawke’s work which complements that of the stars quite well. Sarah Silverman is cast slightly against type as Bernstein’s sister, Shirley, who tries to justify some of Bernstein’s peculiar choices and actions to Felicia. Both Hawke and Silverman have small roles but the actresses make the most of their limited screen time.
Cooper’s interaction with Mulligan on-screen is, simply put, a well-oiled machine. Their affections for one another are so perfectly conveyed and we feel for these characters when they drift apart at certain intervals. As Felicia falls ill, there are a lot of delicate dramatic moments in the movie which are all superbly handled by Cooper’s competent direction. Mulligan would have surely won Best Supporting Actress if she were promoted in the category but it seems she’s going to be placed in the leading actress category– one which is full of heavy-hitters this year. Mulligan still delivers one of the best female performances of the year when considered as a lead.
This is Cooper’s most heartfelt work ever. It’s his tour de force performance that he was born to play. He, too, is surrounded by great performers this year. I’ve narrowed down my three favorite performances this year to Cooper, Paul Giamatti (The Holdovers) and Cillian Murphy (Oppenheimer). By the time awards time rolls around, it may just be Cooper who ultimately delivered the finest male performance of 2023. This is simply a great year for movies and Cooper’s work as both a director and an actor in Maestro is something of a marvel.
As with any great biopic, Maestro creates its characters as flawed individuals, but the audience will be with them through their trials and tribulations. Many scenes are quite strong here. One where people are snorting drugs in Bernstein’s company stands out significantly. A late scene with an older Bernstein dancing with a much younger man will simply rip the viewer’s heart out. The discussions that transpire throughout the movie are thought-provoking and revealing about human nature and desire.
At the film’s end, Felicia was Leonard’s true love in an existence where the demands of life-long career goals took center stage. An interviewer reveals all the different things Leonard does professionally and asks Felicia what she does besides act and be a mother. Felicia suggests to the interviewer, “Isn’t that enough?” Maestro is about the pursuit of greatness and the effects it can have on a relationship. It’s an amazing experience watching this film with two pros, Cooper and Mulligan, at the very top of their game.
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