Daily Notes

Review: Maestro

The Leonard Bernstein biopic is an excellent demonstration of the power of good acting when interpreting a complex subject.
Matt 2 min read
Review: Maestro

Forget the nose. It's not important. It's the acting that counts.

Maestro is a biopic of American composer and conductor, Leonard Bernstein. Bradley Cooper plays Leonard, and Carey Mulligan plays Felicia Bernstein.

The story starts in the 1940's when Bernstein is unexpectedly asked to conduct the New York Philharmonic. This sudden breakthrough catapults Leonard to fame.

Shortly after, Leonard meets Felicia at a party. Their relationship forces Bernstein to break-up with David, a musician. This duality continues throughout the film. Leonard often says that he 'loves people, too much'.

We dip in and out of the complex life and relationships of Leonard and Felicia. We see the almost inevitable collapse of their marriage, and a sad but beautiful ending to their journey.

Bradley Cooper is outstanding. My mark of brilliant acting is the point at which I forget this is a movie. Ten minutes into Maestro, I stopped seeing Cooper, and only saw Bernstein. The closing credits has original footage of Bernstein and I was shocked to see a different person.

Carey Mulligan is also superb. Felicias accent is unplaceable, and I had to pause look up where she was from.

Much of the movie is black and white, and filmed in 4:3 ratio. This gave me the feeling of home movies, but the cinematography is excellent. There are some beautiful long shots, and even a fun dance scene. There are some wonderful scenes where dialogue happens off-screen, but the camera tracks reactions.

And the music, obviously, is extraordinary. Compositions from Bernstein feature throughout, alongside some excellent incidental choices. R.E.M. anyone?

There is one outstanding scene for me, where Bernstein conducts a key piece. I won't spoil, but Bradley Coopers physicality is at the forefront for a long take. The emotion of the ending of this scene is as explosive as the music.

I enjoyed Maestro, and I suspect that this will win some awards this winter.

A recommended film.

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