Maestro (2023)

Maestro (2023) Cover

Maestro, directed by Bradley Cooper and featuring standout performances by Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan, is a film that stands out for its exceptional acting and remarkable makeup work. Both Cooper and Mulligan immerse themselves fully into their roles, portraying the real-life figures of Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre with raw passion and emotion. The makeup artistry deserves special mention for convincingly aging the actors from youth to old age, with attention to detail that adds a layer of authenticity to their characters.

The controversial decision to use a prosthetic nose on Bradley Cooper's character, Leonard Bernstein, sparked criticism, but I found that it contributed to the realism of his portrayal. The attention to physical details, including the transformation of the actors into their characters' older selves, adds depth to the film's visual storytelling.

Covering a substantial time span, the film creatively mirrors the evolution of film aesthetics. It begins in a nostalgic 4:3 square aspect ratio, evoking the charm of earlier cinematic eras in black and white. The gradual introduction of color symbolizes a narrative shift, culminating in a seamless transition to a more contemporary widescreen format by the film's conclusion. This keen attention to visual storytelling nuances adds a distinctive dimension to the film, underscoring the filmmakers' dedication to enhancing the audiences' experience.

However, the film suffers from a significant flaw in its pacing. The narrative unfolds at an incredibly slow pace, demanding patience from the audience. For those unfamiliar with Leonard Bernstein, the lack of a clear, radical conflict in the first hour may leave viewers wondering about the film's central focus. The initial scenes, depicting the mundane activities of the characters, provide insight into their lives but fail to establish a compelling primary conflict.

While the open relationship between Bernstein and his wife adds intrigue, the film falls short in exploring the emotional depths of this dynamic. There is a missed opportunity to delve into the characters' feelings of fear, anxiety, and conflict surrounding their unconventional relationship. More scenes delving into their emotions could have enriched the narrative, making it more engaging for the audience.

Despite the exceptional makeup and performances, the film struggles to fully convey the emotional impact of Bernstein's promiscuous and busy life on his family. The lack of emotional exploration regarding this central theme leaves the audience wanting more, especially in understanding the complexities of the characters' relationships. The film gains emotional resonance towards the end with the plot involving Felicia's health, highlighted by Carey Mulligan's heartbreaking performance. This section of the film successfully elicits a range of emotions that were missing in earlier parts.

Maestro is a film that excels in certain aspects, particularly in its performances and makeup work. However, the sluggish pacing and the underdeveloped exploration of the characters' emotions detract from its overall impact. While those familiar with Leonard Bernstein's life may find the film more intriguing, others may struggle to connect with the narrative. 

Final Verdict:Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan deliver standout performances amidst innovative visuals and makeup; yet sluggish pacing and underdeveloped emotions hinder its full impact.