Bradley Cooper Conducts 'Maestro' Like a Grand Cinematic Symphony

Directed by Bradley Cooper

Starring Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Matt Bomer, Maya Hawke, Sarah Silverman, Josh Hamilton, Scott Ellis

Photo: Jason McDonald / Netflix

BY Marriska FernandesPublished Dec 18, 2023

Bradley Cooper's pure passion for filmmaking shines in his latest directorial entry, Maestro. The film beautiful and poetic tribute to musician and composer Leonard Bernstein, although it's not a straight-up biopic. Rather, Cooper opts for a fearless, complex love story as the foundation of the film.

Leonard's (Cooper) music and relationships are highlighted through the decades, from his initial meeting with his future wife, Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan), to their marriage and three children. Beneath it all, Leonard's love for Felicia centres the entire film, founded upon Cooper and Mulligan's undeniable chemistry.

Cooper's singular vision for Maestro is much stronger than his directorial debut, A Star Is Born. It displays a finely attuned attention to detail, with changing aspect ratios, shifts from black-and-white to colour, and, of course, the chilling musical compositions, including a six-minute single take of Bernstein and his orchestra's magnetic performance of Gustav Mahler's Resurrection Symphony at Ely Cathedral in England.

Cooper and Mulligan's performances are some of their best work — an incredibly well-executed fight scene during Thanksgiving lives rent-free in my mind. Strong acting partners on screen when they're together and apart, the film serves as a symphony of their unyielding talent.

Mulligan compels, commands and cracks us up in the most surprising moments. In lesser hands, the dialogue could have swayed, but Mulligan delivers without missing a beat. The award nominations she's received so far are expected and well-deserved. 

Cooper has clearly been a student of his craft — learning, observing and delivering. A passionate filmmaker and actor, Cooper acts and directs like the maestro he emulates. He fills the film with simple and profound moments, utilizing long pauses and lingering quiet to leave viewers feel uncomfortable, mirroring how Leonard and Felicia must have felt and thought during those moments. When Jamie (Maya Hawke), Leonard and Felicia's eldest child, confronts her father about the rumours of his affairs, there's a silent glance between the two as the camera zooms in on Leonard's face, a moment that screams in its silence. 

In all aspects, Maestro will be enjoyed by cinephiles, music lovers and critics alike, and it will certainly sing to audiences everywhere.

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