1693669227 Maestro Makeup Designer Kazu Hiro Responds to Bradley Coopers Nose

‘Maestro’ Review: Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan Make Beautiful Music Together in Cooper’s Haunting Leonard Bernstein Biopic



In his second film as a director (after “A Star Is Born”), Cooper walks a tightrope, working with a pointillist intimacy that fills every moment with fascination and surprise.

In “Maestro,” in which he plays the legendary American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, Bradley Cooper has a gleam in his eye – a gleam of happiness and mischief, of gleeful cosmopolitan desire. His Lenny is a child prodigy, a joker, a seducer, a monk full of creative devotion and, above all, a man of epic contradictions. In public he tends to be decent and ostentatious; in private, he is so recklessly effusive that he gives the word “gay” new – or perhaps old – meaning. He is a complex soul, a quality that extends from his professional life, where he is a reverent conductor of the classics and a jubilant composer of Broadway musicals (as well as a serious composer who longs to be considered a classicist) to extends to his personal life, where he is a passionate hedonist, ruthlessly attracted to men, and is also a devoted husband and family man.

It turns out that the controversy surrounding Cooper’s decision to wear a prosthetic nose was completely misplaced. The enhanced nose works brilliantly (you immediately forget about it as it becomes part of Amber’s regal, ethnic beauty). But it’s the eyes that count. Cooper has always had a preternatural sparkle as an actor. In “Maestro,” those eyes burn with joy as he imbues Lenny with a dizzying devotion that makes him a spectacle in his own right. He has so much life force that he expects the whole world to revolve around it.

The film begins with a prelude, shot in color, in which the aging Lenny plays an abandoned piano piece in his country house in Connecticut and then undergoes a television interview in which he confesses how much he misses “her” – Felicia, his late wife and soulmate. The film then shows a stunning black and white shot of what we momentarily believe to be a concert stage curtain. It turns out that it is the bedroom window of Bernstein’s attic apartment. It is November 14, 1943, the fateful day when Bernstein, the 25-year-old associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic, is called onto the stage without rehearsal to fill in for the orchestra’s guest conductor, Bruno Walter, who did has become ill.

Bernstein, framed by the silhouette, lights a cigarette (he is almost never without it) and expresses appropriate regret about Walter’s condition. But then he hangs up the phone, jumps out of the bed he shares with his dream boat lover David (Matthew Bomer) and runs through the apartment straight to Carnegie Hall. The film shows the aftermath of the concert: Lenny stands on stage giggling with joy, which is his form of generosity. What he’s really laughing about is the fact that a star is born and he’s the star.

Almost any filmmaker you could name would have given us a scene from this concert: Bernstein conducting, the electricity of the music coursing through him as he became the new rock star of the classical music world (and the first American conductor for that matter). with European legends like Arturo Toscanini). But Cooper, who directed “Maestro” and co-wrote it with Josh Singer, is looking for something less obvious and more revealing. It’s part of the film’s playful audacity that we almost never see Bernstein at the podium in his ’50s and ’60s heyday, slicing through the air with his baton and shaking his signature black pompadour. Instead, “Maestro” is based on Bernstein’s inner spell. It’s a film that, like Lenny himself, goes where it wants to go, leaves out what it wants to leave out, pays attention to its own pleasure centers and gives us privileged glimpses into Bernstein’s life as if we were eavesdropping.

In the second film he directed (after A Star Is Born), Cooper stands on a high wire and carries it away. In “Maestro” he works with a pointillist intimacy that fills every moment with fascination and surprise. We see almost nothing of “West Side Story,” but here’s a backstage riff on “Fancy Free,” the 1944 ballet by Bernstein and Jerome Robbins (which eventually became the musical “On the Town”), during Lenny composes in the bathroom With the door open, the strange joker scurries around the room. And here is Lenny in a fantasy sequence as one of the sailors living out his destiny. We see little of Bernstein’s greatest hits as America’s conducting superstar (the Young People’s Concerts, etc.), but we see the longing with which he longs to be celebrated as a major composer, as if conducting was just his day job. We watch Lenny make fun of his lover’s sexy feet, and we see him at a party thrown by his sister Shirley (Sarah Silverman), where he meets Chilean-American actress Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan) and the two of them come into contact with each other like the stars of a Hollywood screwball comedy.

She is in tune with his dizzying embrace of life, matching him joke for joke. It’s not just about fun and games. Throughout the film, Lenny talks about how much he wants to do and be everything at once. He has too many dimensions, and every time he says it, it’s both true and a sign of: the exuberant fullness of his sexual identity. He cannot be contained. And what love do Lenny and Felicia feel given Lenny’s basic orientation towards men?

We assume the film will “explain” their relationship. Cooper does something more daring: he presents it from every angle and with all its secrets as a romantic partnership as unique as any other. Felicia understands early on that Lenny has his other life; she accepts it with her eyes open. Still, we see the two of them in bed together, so it’s not all that simple. And for a while their partnership works wonderfully. When they marry and have three children, the two seem to have left worldly pettiness and emotional obsession behind them. How much is Lenny motivated by love and how much is he motivated by the political need to maintain “protection” in a world where homosexuality is still fundamentally forbidden? That the film refuses to quantify this question is part of its haunting humanity.

But while Lenny and Felicia share a certain passionate idealism about what their marriage could look like, in the end they are just people full of jealousy and possessiveness. Their arrangement works until it begins to wear the two down. Lenny, dazed by his superstardom, begins to get “sloppy” (he immediately encounters a new perspective at a cocktail party at her lavish home on Central Park West). But it’s not just that. Mulligan’s Felicia falls into a kind of slow-motion depression as everything Lenny does revolves around him. The scene in which she lets him know this, cutting him to the core by highlighting the ugly anger beneath his joy, is searing in its power (even as the oversized image of Snoopy becomes the domestic motif of the scene).

“Maestro,” like the great television series “Fosse/Verdon,” is a stunning portrait of the artist as a charismatic narcissist dependent on a marriage he believes in but can’t quite live up to. Most of the music we hear is Bernstein’s own music, and its austere rapture is the soundtrack to his agony and ecstasy. When we finally see him conducting, leading an orchestra in a cathedral in a performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony, it’s a great scene in which Cooper shows us how Bernstein becomes the music and the music becomes him. This is Lenny at his most transcendent.

Still, we squirm the moment he feels forced to lie to his eldest daughter Jamie (Maya Hawke) about the rumors she’s heard about him. “Maestro” forces us to confront the tragedy of a homophobic society. At the same time, it doesn’t use this reality to apologize for Lenny. The film is honest enough to show us that there is no solution to the contradiction at the heart of his marriage to Felicia, which begins as devotion, flirts with betrayal, succumbs to a kind of despair, returns to devotion, and is always about love. “Maestro” cannot help but be dominated by the magnitude of Bernstein’s passion, his outsized flaws and the tightrope he walked between the need to find the meaning of beauty and the desire to remain free of fantasy. Still, Cooper and Mulligan make the film an unforgettable duet.