Maestro (2023)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on December 18, 2023 @

A major question about film: Because your lead character is a pretentious personality, do you have to make a pretentious film?

In Maestro (Netflix), Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) is a pretentious personality. Filmmaker Cooper answers that question with a pretentious film.

It smacks of self-importance. Cooper directed it, co-scripted with Oscar winner Josh Singer, and portrayed Bernstein.

As Bernstein, Bradley had major prosthetics done by Kazo Hiro. Maestro is a film for which the nose will win the Oscar for Best Actor.

Maestro is pretentious from the very start. The lengthy black-and-white cinematography is gimmicky. It's a mishmash of parties, Bernstein's initial success as conductor/composer, his relationships, particularly the one he developed with Felicia (Carey Mulligan). Bradley, you aren't in Kansas anymore.

As the film evolves, Bernstein comes across as a gifted ass. In one scene at a concert he holds hands with a young man as his wife sits beside him. In another he directly lies to his daughter (Maya Hawke - daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman) when she seeks the truth about gossip.

He also says anybody who says anything questioning him is "jealous." Remind you of anyone?

His wife Felicia says, "My own arrogance was to think I could survive on what he could give."

About the only subtlety in the film is the use of the color blue as a symbol. The first shot in color is Felicia, dressed in blue, looking out a window. Blue is subtly used by cinematographer Matthew Libatique, costume designer Mark Bridges, and the production designer and art designers.

Maestro has a lot of heft behind it. Steven Spielberg and Marty Scorsese are listed as producers.

I must admit I prefer the Bradley Cooper of Silver Linings Playbook (2012) before he got illusions of grandeur.

But maybe he will become an American auteur.

For better or worse.

© 2000-2023 Tony Macklin