Maestro (2023) – Review and Summary

Like Leonard Bernstein himself, Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” stays intriguing and frustrating in what it decides to show and hide about the legendary composer.


Community Rating: 75% (1 votes)

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“Maestro” Film Summary

“Maestro” is the highly anticipated Netflix film co-written and directed by Bradley Cooper that is ripe for award season. After his success with “A Star is Born,” much buzz was built around Cooper’s second film. “Maestro” depicts the love and marriage between Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre. The story revolves around Bernstein and his music accomplishments as his marriage slowly becomes more strained, which makes the drama in “Maestro” sometimes feel lopsided or unsure of how to peel back the drive and complexities of Bernstein’s life.

We first meet Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) as an elderly man in front of a camera crew, slowly pounding away at piano keys as he tells the camera crew that he carries his wife with him in everything he does. We then flashback to Bernstein as a young man, receiving a fateful call that he’ll be that night’s conductor at the New York Philharmonic—he’s in bed with another man when he receives the news. Both scenes depict the contradiction in passion and love within Bernstein’s life: a legendary composer on the cusp of his big break, giving his all within his music but hiding a piece of his heart.

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Carey Mulligan and Bradley Cooper star in “Maestro” (Netflix, 2023)

The only person to potentially know the true Bernstein is Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan), a Broadway actor who meets Bernstein perchance at a party when they’re both in their 20s. The two adore each other and connect on a profound level that excites and challenges them both. But once they get married and have children, Felicia starts to learn about Leonard’s love for men too. As Leonard’s star rises higher and higher, his attraction to men and drugs becomes more reckless, putting his family and marriage in jeopardy. 

“Maestro” flirts with the common tropes in a music biopic (the dangers of fame, drug use, and redemption) and sidesteps those dramatic details without a care. What makes “Maestro” compelling is the focus on Bernstein’s relationships, but it comes at the risk of the audience understanding the tension within Bernstein’s marriage but never the genius behind his music. “Maestro” is gorgeous and filmed with precise vision, but that vision still keeps much of Bernstein in the dark.

Other Noteworthy Information

  1. Bradley Cooper writes, directs, and stars in “Maestro.” 
  2. The first trailer sparked internet controversy over Cooper’s inclusion of a fake prosthetic nose to embody the late Leonard Bernstein. The claims were that the prosthetic was unnecessary and potentially anti-Semitic. Bernstein’s family gave their blessing to Cooper’s appearance in the movie.
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“Maestro” received controversy for Bradley Cooper’s prosthetic nose.

“Maestro” Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member.

Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein is a renowned composer who can charm anyone and convince others and himself of anything. “Maestro” depicts Bernstein at the height of his career, with an admiring wife and a secret sexual attraction to men.

Felicia Montealegre

Felicia Montealagre is a Broadway actor smitten by Bernstein. While Bernstein showers her with love, Felicia learns that Leonard may be gay and continues to stay with him, despite the slow pain it brings to their marriage. 

Collected Quote(s)

“If you’re not careful, you’re going to die a lonely old queen.”

“Maestro” Review


Community Rating: 75% (1 votes)


Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)

Notable Performances or Moments

Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein, and Carey Mulligan as Felicia Montealegre

Cooper and Mulligan embrace the theatrics of 1940s dialogue that you hear in classic black-and-white films, but they also demonstrate the quiet pain of two people slowly drifting apart. They convey the highs and lows of love, marriage, and their relationship, which is always in the spotlight. Mulligan especially embodies hurt with a look that stays with you long after the movie ends. 

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Highlights

Compelling Performances that Feel Natural and Theatrical

There are scenes that feel like you’re watching a Broadway production of “Maestro,” and there are scenes that feel intimate and uncomfortably close to these people. They trip over each other’s dialogue, stutter, repeat themselves, and hold onto each other as if looking for anchors in a dizzying life. The composed chaos makes each actor’s performance feel truly lived in. 

Camera Movements and Staging Create Dreamy Atmosphere

In the first act of “Maestro,” scenes seep into one another with a surreal quality as camera movements and match cuts take us forward into time. We drift away from Bernstein to see the power of his influence, and we glide closer and closer to his face to recognize the drive of his music. Some of the most well-crafted scenes are shot in black-and-white and take place in the mesmerizing first act, as we become intoxicated by Leonard and Felicia’s love too.  

On The Fence

Drama Sidesteps Bernstein as a Composer 

Like Bernstein himself, “Maestro” stays intriguing and frustrating in what it decides to show and hide. In the final act of the film, there’s a powerful scene of Bernstein conducting an orchestra, but it’s one of the rare scenes that depicts Bernstein as a conductor. The movie skips over any creative struggle with his music, any bitter confrontation he may have with his kids about his sexuality, and any trouble Bernstein may have with himself. Bernstein may have hidden his true self from the world, and “Maestro” keeps it that way. 

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Who Is This For?

Fans of the late composer Leonard Bernstein, fans of prestige dramas, and fans of Bradley Cooper might enjoy “Maestro.” 

“Maestro” General Information

Director Bradley Cooper
Screenplay By Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer
Based On Work By Leonard Bernstein’s life
Date Released December 20, 2023
How To Watch Netflix
Genre(s) Comedy

Drama

Romance

Biopic

Musical

Film Length 2 Hours, 9 Minutes
Content Rating Rated R
Noted Characters and Cast
Leonard Bernstein  Bradley Cooper
Felicia Montealegre  Carey Mulligan

Content Rating Explanation

“Maestro” is rated R due to profanity, drug use, and sexual content. 

Recommendations

If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. A Star is Born
  2. Tick, Tick… Boom!
  3. West Side Story

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.

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Maestro (2023) – Review and Summary
Overall
What makes “Maestro” compelling is the focus on Bernstein’s relationships, but it comes at the risk of the audience understanding the tension within Bernstein’s marriage but never the genius behind his music. “Maestro” is gorgeous and filmed with precise vision, but that vision still keeps much of Bernstein in the dark.
Highlights
Compelling Performances that Feel Natural and Theatrical
Camera Movements and Staging Create Dreamy Atmosphere
Disputable
Drama Sidesteps Bernstein as a Composer 
80

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