Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Maestro - Review

 With 2018’s A Star Is Born, director Bradley Cooper confidently announced his arrival as a promising filmmaker. And with 2023’s Maestro, Cooper has shifted from that moniker to one with a little more notoriety: auteur. The film’s homages to the great cinema of the 50s, 60s and 70s are excellently realized, the sweeping orchestral score is a beautiful bow on top, and the performances from top to bottom are some of the year’s best. If Cooper wasn’t a director to watch before, he most certainly is now. 

The chronicles of the lifelong relationship between Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) and Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein (Carey Mulligan), and the various ups and downs of their lives. A love letter to life and art, and an emotionally epic portrayal of family and love.

Like so many biopics, Maestro seeks to paint a full portrait of Leonard Bernstein, Felicia Montealegre and their life together. Throughout the first half, shot beautifully in black and white, the focus remains firmly planted in their dreamlike love affair, weaving Bernstein’s own musical scores throughout the mundane and simple moments of the two falling for each other. When the relationships’ struggles start to poke through, the film is brought to life in color, driving home the more complex emotions and depth to which we, the audience, view this now struggling love. 

What really pulls it all together is the performances of the its two stars: Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan. Cooper transforms into Bernstein, evolving the character over the years, both physically and from an emotional standpoint. He’s able to handle every element with an immense ease, made even more impressive by his role as director as well. But the heart of the film rests solely on the shoulders of Mulligan. As Felicia, Mulligan brings a certain warmth in the early portion of the film, that fades into pain and disappointment through the cracks in the marriage. 

Through snappy dialogue, incredible cinematography, gorgeous music, and impressive makeup work, the whole of Maestro is a fitting work of art. It’s not surprising that this seems to be the primary push for Netflix, as it will almost certainly clean up on nomination morning for a whole bevy of categories. The only travesty amongst all of this is that so many are destined to view this from their couch, far removed from the big screen and booming sound that make this experience an unforgettable one. While a great deal of films at this time of year are must-sees, Maestro is one you should definitely seek out in theaters, to truly feel the mesmerizing and magnificent film that this is. 

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