December 4, 2023

CINEMA | Bradley Cooper Conducts 'Maestro' x WFF 2023

"You're going to die a lonely, old queen!"
Carey Mulligan Bradley Cooper | Maestro Netflix | WFF 2023
Whistler Film Festival
A Star is Born filmmaker Bradley Cooper once again directs himself in the Leonard Bernstein period biopic Maestro, co-produced by cinematic legends Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. Cooper crafts a complex portrait of the famed composer and conductor who had a tumultuous personal life amidst the highs of his professional accomplishments within the context of a difficult but loving marriage.

A marvellous Carey Mulligan, who receives top-billing as actress and wife Felicia Montealegre, grounds the spectacularly opulent film weaving back and forth through time from 1943 to 1989. Despite the British actress portraying a Costa Rican-born, Chilean-raised American Broadway star, her soulful performance prevents the film from bursting with its musical inspiration.

Scripted by Cooper and Josh Singer, Maestro inverts many of A Star is Born's darkly pop tendencies with sweeping classical flourish scored to the subject's own composed music. Its screenplay only ever flirts with melodrama as Cooper's Bernstein has casual affairs with men as the stress of the power couple's unconventional family life starts to buckle. However, Mulligan makes everything come together through her sense of reluctant grace as she accepts her husband's attractive orbit.

Bradley Cooper | Maestro Netflix
Sikelia Productions / Amblin Entertainment
How Maestro employs Bernstein's music through awe-inspiring sequences of conducting, orchestration, and classical performances will convince audiences of its influence, if not already. Only a scant over two hours, the film's economically torrid pace uses cinematic transitions to flawlessly move through time and history as we follow the central romance and four-decade-long relationship.

What Cooper does in triumphantly expressing Bernstein's extraordinary through his music, family, and personality both follows and breaks cinematic conventions of the prestige biographical drama. Maestro is a splendidly maximalist yet absorbing human portrait of a genius musician who could never stop. It's a bravura film of towering performances only limited by its focused scope.

Maestro screened as the opening night film of the 2023 Whistler Film Festival as part of the Special Presentations program. It also screens at the VIFF Centre, Rio Theatre, and will be available to stream on Netflix starting December 20th.

More | YVArcade / CBC / Polygon / Vogue

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