As the Oscar campaign season heats up, Bradley Cooper presents Maestro, his sophomore directorial venture, which celebrates the life of revered American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein. This comes after his debut, A Star Is Born, garnered widespread acclaim during its run on the same festival circuit.
In yet another social media attempt at race baiting, some tried to make an issue out of Cooper’s decision to wear a prosthetic nose, which he more than rightfully adopted to match the look of the legendary composer. The endorsement from the Bernstein family, of course, put these detractors in their place.
Narratively speaking, it’s a classic biopic, tracing Bernstein’s journey from the onset of his career to the iconic Ely Cathedral concert – and, ultimately, his passing. Cooper appears to have found a more balanced approach to both directing and acting, steering clear of the exaggerated performances that penalised his debut work.
Despite Bernstein’s immense success and fame, we discover he was a man plagued by personal demons. He couldn’t bear solitude, he grappled with his sexuality and the realisation that his talent for conducting overshadowed his composing skills became a torment.
Cooper excels in portraying his character authentically, making him at times relatable and at others despicable. Biopics shouldn’t merely celebrate; they should reveal depth. It’s by doing so we feel as though we truly come to understand Bernstein’s nature. Carey Mulligan, as his wife Felicia Montealegre, once again delivers a beautifully understated performance as a woman burdened by the almost impossible life of being married to the unruly maverick.
Much like Tar did last year , it’s beautiful to see the world of orchestras once again taking centre stage in a film. And it’s entirely fitting considering Cooper has chosen to do it having shared that as a child, he would conduct an imaginary orchestra to classical music his family played – and only later did he discover that those very pieces were performed by Bernstein himself. The scene where he conducts Mahler at Ely Cathedral, the intensity in his movements, the conviction in his eyes, that is probably the best acting he’s given us thus far.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Maestro is released nationwide on 22nd November 2023.
Read more reviews from our Venice Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Venice Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Maestro here: