top of page
  • Gareth Crook

Maestro (2023) - 5/10

Honestly this isn’t a film I’d be naturally drawn to and I’m afraid it’s the controversy around the casting of Bradley Cooper that’s brought me here. He’s Leonard Bernstein, you might’ve heard of him and if not, that’s the point of films like Maestro. It’s a life and career retrospective, fairly top line, whilst getting enough into the weeds where needed, well sort of. I don’t know much or anything about Bernstein really. I know the name, that he was Jewish and apparently brilliant. Composer, conductor, confident, almost ridiculously so. The energy is frantic, not just his, but the era and the world. We start pre war as cameras sweep decadently through concert halls and socially suave parties. At one such, we get a lot of clumsy exposition that ties Bernstein to Felicia Montealagre (Carey Mulligan) through their similar histories and kicks off their courtship. An old fashioned phrase for an old fashioned film. The dialogue has an air of prim and proper and the 4:3 ratio black and white treatment tries to hammer this home. Subtle it’s not, but playful it is. It takes its pacing from Bernsteins whirlwind mind. “There’s a lot of things I want” he says, including David Oppenheim (Matt Bomer) with whom he shares a complicated relationship. This is where Maestro lives, in the relationships, not the music. As we move through time, colour is introduced, not only signifying the era, but the added complications that Bernstein brings to his life, with lovers and an inner paranoia. For all of its visual frivolity, it’s pretty dark. Not always for Leonard, but often for those around him, like his daughter Jamie (Maya Hawke). He pretends to want what’s best for everyone, but really in this portrayal he’s quite selfish. He’s the talent, everyone revolves around him. Until they don’t. It’s quite frustrating to watch in places to be honest. He’s annoying. People are forever talking over one another and it only gets worse as the arguments increase. It all feels a bit over indulgent. Particularly when it’s Cooper who’s directing and had a hand in writing and producing it too. Even if Scorsese and Spielberg are attached. I don’t feel like I know Bernstein all that better than when I started and I can’t help feeling he deserved a little better. It’s not that it’s a bad film. It’s entertaining enough, it looks great, the costume and set production is lovely. Mulligan is brilliant. It’s just a bit bloated. Maybe I need to know a bit more about Bernstein for context. I thought I’d get that here, but it’s a bit too polished and concerned with its surface to really let you in. Although be careful what you wish for, I’m not sure on the strength of this that I’d like what I found.



bottom of page