Maestro Review

Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” offers a glimpse into the life of Leonard Bernstein, yet treads a well-worn path characteristic of many biopics. Cooper not only directs but also steps into the shoes of Bernstein, presenting a technically impressive but emotionally restrained portrayal of the iconic composer and conductor.

The film unfolds in a linear fashion, meticulously detailing events in Bernstein’s life. This approach, while clear and structured, tends to skim the surface of his complex persona, offering more of a chronological summary than an in-depth exploration. The narrative, striving to encompass Bernstein’s multifaceted life, often ends up feeling more general than intimate.

Visually, “Maestro” is crafted with precision. The cinematography, costumes, and production design effectively capture the various eras of Bernstein’s life, transitioning smoothly as decades pass. Matthew Libatique’s work as director of photography is commendable, particularly in scenes that recreate the ambiance of the past, like Carey Mulligan’s character Felicia Montealegre’s dramatic entry. These elements add a historical authenticity to the film.

Cooper’s commitment to realistically portraying Bernstein is evident, notably in his extensive training to conduct. This dedication shines in a scene where Bernstein leads the London Symphony Orchestra, a moment that combines the film’s strengths in visual and musical harmony. The editing, done by Michelle Tesoro, facilitates a fluid narrative, moving effortlessly through different periods of Bernstein’s life.

However, the film’s exploration of Bernstein’s inner world and personal relationships is limited. His struggle with his identity and the complexity of his marriage with Felicia are touched upon but not deeply examined. The film hints at these aspects but falls short of offering a profound understanding of Bernstein’s emotional landscape.

Felicia’s character, despite a strong performance by Mulligan, often remains secondary to Bernstein’s. The film acknowledges their complex relationship but doesn’t fully delve into its emotional depths. The portrayal tends to lean towards visual storytelling, leaving the audience wanting more insight into their personal dynamics.

The use of prosthetics for Cooper’s transformation into Bernstein, particularly his nose, has sparked discussions about cultural representation. While the makeup, crafted by Kazu Hiro, is technically impressive, it raises questions about the portrayal of cultural and religious identities in film.

“Maestro” stands out for its technical excellence and attention to detail but adheres to a conventional biographical format that doesn’t fully capture Bernstein’s innovative spirit. The film is a respectful homage to a musical legend but could have benefitted from a more daring and in-depth narrative approach.

While “Maestro” is a polished depiction of Leonard Bernstein’s life, its traditional narrative structure and superficial exploration of his deeper character traits might leave viewers seeking a more comprehensive understanding. The film will be available on Netflix from December 20 and is worth watching for its technical craftsmanship and portrayal of historical periods.

For more film reviews and cultural insights, visit HitPlay.

This article may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission if you purchase through these links.