Maestro review: Bradley Cooper looks uncanny as Leonard Bernstein in what's probably his best performance so far!

Aishwarya Srinivasan
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Maestro review

Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival: In our Maestro review, we talk about the amazing compositions by Leonard Bernstein, Bradley Cooper’s performance and the old Hollywood feel of the film!

Maestro review: Maestro is based on the life of musical genius Leonard Bernstein and his troubled marriage with his wife Felicia Montealegre. The film is a meticulously and soulfully curated product by Bradley Cooper. He not only plays the titular role but also has directed and co-produced the film along with Martin Scorsese and Steven Speilberg. When two of the biggest industry icons attach their name to a project, you know you can trust it when you go inside the theatre. And Maestro really doesn’t disappoint you. The film starts with a much older version of Leonard Bernstein, where we see an unrecognizable Bradley Cooper talking about his late wife in an interview. The scene then cuts to a much younger Leonard but in black and white making it look vintage, like we’re actually transformed back to the 50s. The old school feel makes it way more interesting to watch. And the first black and white scene is how a younger Leonard luck by chance gets his shot at being a music conductor at Cornette Hall.

But this film isn’t about Leonard Bernstein the musician, it’s about him as a human being struggling to accept his truth and him as a husband. He first meets Felicia at a party and the two hit it off since the first ‘Hi’. Their love story is shown in a montage of changing sets and smooth editing that makes you feel like you’re watching a play, not a movie. Before you know it, they’re married and have 3 kids and he has risen to fame in the industry. But that’s when the real trouble between them starts. Felicia always had a feeling that Leonard had a thing for men but brushed it under the carpet as he made it look very casual and never really acted upon it in front of her. Until he started being more and more attracted towards his male friends and it was no longer something he could resist. Homosexuality is not something his wife and children understood. They frowned upon it. And he himself took time to realize that it’s not a problem, this is infact who he is and always will be. 

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But they loved each other. No matter how messed up, confused and distant they were. They were still each other’s biggest support system. For her, running their household and loving him was everything that she knew. Acting came secondary to her. But he was the life of the room. He had so much energy, he heard everyone, spoke to everyone and of course music was his first love. How they navigate life while accepting his truth and being each other’s best friends is what will make you connect to the film. Maya Hawke plays his eldest daughter and their only child who truly understood and had to accept what was going on between her parents. But she loved both of them for who they were. 

The parts where Leonard is composing or conducting music will give you goosebumps. Bradley Cooper flings his head and body like he is one with the orchestra. It inspires you to see how a masterpiece is being created in front of you and the way it fills the whole room with that energy is so powerful. The music definitely is one of the biggest highlights of the film. Carey Mulligan who plays Felicia has an English poise but a sharp mind. She knows which moments to pick with Leonard and which buttons to push in a conversation. Bradley as Leonard on the other hand is joyous as a musician but also authentically portrays when he is depressed or lonely. His voice as a younger Leonard is much more high pitched and happy than when he is older and has a more dense vocal. 

But this film would be nothing without the prosthetics and costume. For a biopic that’s set in a whole other era these, two elements have to be done right. Mark Bridges does such a good job with Felicia’s elegant dresses and Leonard’s suits when he has to perform. Two time Academy Award Winning makeup artist Kazu Hiro said in an interview that Bradley Cooper had to sit for prosthetics for 5 hours just so he can look exactly like the musical Maestro. You can see the amount of effort put into the film. 

The last few moments of the film where they deal with Felicia’s terminal illness is heartbreaking. They were in love till the very end. He was watching his biggest cheerleader suffer and he was helpless about it. There’s a scene where Leonard, Felicia and their three children hug each other tightly before Felicia bids them goodbye forever. She really was the backbone of that family. Leonard might have had many relationships on and off with men during the course of their marriage and theirs wasn’t an ideal relationship either. But in their hearts they knew they were each other’s numero uno and it tells you that in the middle of all these fairytale romances, here lies a relationship that has a gray area and love co-exists amongst it in many different ways. 

Maestro had its Indian premiere at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival this year!

Bradley Cooper martin scorsese Maestro Carey Mulligan Maya Hawke Maestro review Kazu Hiro Mark Bridges Steven Speilberg Leonard Bernstein Felicia Montealegre