Maestro Netflix movie reviews Bradley Cooper uses the most conventional method available to tell the story of a creative innovator who defined a generation in “Maestro”: by using the well-known cliches and straight-forward plot of a typical biopic.
Cooper, who also plays renowned conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, directed and starred in this visually stunning but emotionally draining movie. He co-wrote the script for “Spotlight” with Josh Singer, and it follows a well-trod episodic path: this happened, then that happened, and so on. In the end, it makes the same mistake as a great deal of biopics, particularly high-profile films with serious award hopes: It ends up feeling superficial because it covers such a large portion of the life of a very well-known person.
Still, you ought to witness it. Although it may seem paradoxical, “Maestro” constantly achieves amazing artistic results, making it a worthwhile viewing. Throughout the roughly forty-odd years of Bernstein’s life, the production design, costumes, and cinematography are all accurate and evocative, changing with the times. With every era, Cooper goes above and beyond in the camera department to give you the impression that you’re watching a film from the 1940s.
Matthew Libatique, who was nominated for an Oscar as director of photography for Bradley Cooper’s first feature film “A Star Is Born,” does amazing things with a single lightbulb on a desolate stage, for instance, while shooting in high contrast black and white and Academy ratio. The scene in which Carey Mulligan plays Felicia Montealegre, the future wife of Leonard Bernstein, gets off a bus at night and walks up the street to the party where she will meet him for the first time is incredibly authentic in terms of filmmaking. The vivid appeal of scenes shot in the 1960s and 1970s is enhanced by their rich Technicolor. Additionally, editor Michelle Tesoro’s brilliant transitions transport the story thrillingly across space and time.
Cooper has obviously taken great care to ensure that every detail, no matter how tiny, is perfect. This involves studying conducting for six years in order to master a particularly important scene: a performance of Bernstein conducting the London Symphony Orchestra through Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony No. 2 at Ely Cathedral in 1973, which lasts more than six minutes. (A vital conducting consultant for Cooper was Yannick Nézet-Séguin.) The soloists, orchestra, and choir are all fluidly framed by the camera as the music envelops him and reverberates throughout this magnificent structure. This is the height of Bernstein’s joy; he is sweating profusely and fervently.
Before it starts streaming on Netflix on December 20, the entire movie is worth seeing in theatres, but you’ll want to enjoy this protracted, cathartic scene in the best possible quality for both picture and sound.
Although Bernstein’s music is interwoven throughout—including a humorous use of the prologue from “West Side Story” during a time of marital strife—we never get a full picture of him as a man or as a musician. He is a legendary figure from mid-century America whose reputation reaches far beyond the exclusive realm of classical music. However, as viewers, we are also kept at a distance by Bernstein’s existence, which is inherently performative given that he is a closet gay man.
He was always “on,” fully conscious of his genius and growing notoriety. We catch glimpses of his private bliss with a number of men, among them Matt Bomer, who plays the clarinet and was his ex-boyfriend. He says a sad and emotional goodbye to Matt Bomer on a sidewalk in Manhattan. However, the characterization has an unresolved, seductive quality that persists throughout.
Although there were complications in Lenny’s relationship with Felicia, “Maestro” seldom goes very deep into them. The director, Cooper, wisely allows these scenes—as well as the couple’s later arguments—to play out in lengthy, single takes because the two have a lively, contagious chemistry when they first meet and fall in love. Their bond seems sincere, and Mulligan, who is often amazing, finds ways to show Felicia that go beyond the cliché of the woman hiding behind the man. Nevertheless, the Costa Rican-Chilean actress frequently appears to be standing in Bernstein’s shadow. In one picture, she is seen watching her husband conduct from the wings, with an oversized image of him suckling her up like a monster.
(Mulligan also benefits from some of the most exquisite costumes designed for the movie by Mark Bridges.) But what is Felicia’s true attitude about having a number of men, the majority younger and obliging, share her husband? Fix your hair, she sternly reprimands him after she sees him kissing a partygoer in the hallway of their apartment in the historic Dakota building. You’re becoming careless. That’s almost exactly the authentic, unadulterated feeling that would have given “Maestro” more weight.
Regarding the superficial aspects of the film, a lot of discussion has centered on Cooper’s choice to don ornate prosthetics in order to fully embody Bernstein. Given that Cooper is not Jewish, the prominent nose in particular has caused concern. (The decision has been defended by Bernstein’s children.) Expert makeup artist Kazu Hiro, who won Academy Awards for transforming Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill in “The Darkest Hour” and Charlize Theron into Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell,” does a remarkably convincing job here, particularly during the film’s opening and closing scenes when Bernstein makes an appearance as a 70-year-old man.
Towards the end of the movie, there is an incident that warrants criticism. The frame has grown to fill the screen in the late 1980s. As Bernstein cruises around in his Jaguar convertible, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M. is blasting. Lead singer Michael Stipe yells the line “Leonard Bernstein!” as he closes in on the center of the frame. Perhaps this was something that Bernstein actually did; he seemed to think highly of himself, so perhaps he was thrilled to be mentioned in this way in real life. However, this decision was glaringly obvious in a motion picture. I let out a loud groan.