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Maestro movie review: Bradley Cooper presents a nuanced biopic of a genius

Maestro movie review: Powered by Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan, Maestro captures the brilliance of Leonard Bernstein as well as his complicated relationship with actor Felicia Montealegre

Rating: 4 out of 5
Bradley CooperActor Bradley Cooper's directorial Maestro is based on life of Leonard Bernstein.

About five years ago, actor Bradley Cooper made an impressive directorial debut with A Star is Born, which bagged multiple Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. Cooper also played its lead character of a famous country rock singer-songwriter, who is battling an alcohol and drug addiction and falls in love with an aspiring singer played by Lady Gaga. With Maestro, he repeats his magnificent feat as an actor-director as he explores the complicated relationship that music legend Leonard Bernstein (Cooper) shared with his wife, actor Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein (Carey Mulligan).

At the heart of this ambitious biopic of Bernstein, a world-famous classical conductor and composer, is the deep bond he shared with Felicia even as he had multiple affairs with men. As Bernstein describes themselves, they remained “two little ducks in a pond” through thick and thin. There is a dreamy quality to their romance, which unfolds in the Forties and is shown as a flashback, as it is captured in black-and-white. Their relationship also seems perfect in spite of his demanding career as a composer of several successful operas and Broadway musicals as well as transgressions. The cracks in their relationships appear over a period of time as Bernstein becomes a bigger celebrity, who hosts lavish parties, with people fawning over him.



The film’s opening scene shows Bernstein, who is nearly 70, being interviewed at his home. The conversation switches to early years of his career. It shows the prodigious conductor, who is then 25, as the assistant conductor to the New York Philharmonic. He unexpectedly makes his conducting debut with the Philharmonic and wins accolades. Even though the movie’s title suggests that it’s the story of the musical genius, it gives enough importance to Felicia’s story as his biggest supporter. Interestingly, Mulligan’s name also appears before Cooper in the credits.

Cooper, who has opted for prosthetics to get a sharp nose to nail his character’s look, delivers one of his best performances that can be achieved only from understanding the genius, vulnerability and frailty of Bernstein. His depiction of Bernstein is charming as he exudes oodles of warmth and captures his flamboyance. This is a major step up for Cooper, who has already consolidated his reputation as a wonderful actor with movies like Silver Linings Playbook (2012), American Hustle (2013) and American Sniper (2014).

Festive offer

Mulligan’s portrayal of Felicia’s love for Bernstein as well as acceptance of his follies is magnificent. The screenplay, written by Cooper and Josh Singer, keeps the couple at the centre instead of mentioning many landmarks in Bernstein’s illustrious career. Together, the lead actors create a spark on the screen that stays with the audience long after the movie has ended.

Maestro is the story of a genius with a penchant for leading his life to the fullest even though it pushes away his wife and makes her seek validation in acting. Yet, when she is going through one of the worst phases of her life, he is by her side without slightest hesitation. He is full of contradictions but loves his family dearly. He lies to his daughter so that her heart is not broken. He nurses Falicia when she is ill. Even though he doesn’t put an end to his dalliances, he wants Felicia to be around.


With this moving drama, Cooper cements his reputation as a director with eyes for detail and ability to tell complex stories. He knows how to create drama that reflects the beauty of symphony and keeps the audience engaged.

Maestro movie director: Bradley Cooper

Maestro movie cast: Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Maya Hawke, Sarah Silverman, Matt Bomer

Maestro movie rating: 4 stars

First published on: 20-12-2023 at 14:01 IST
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