Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, “A Star is Born,” earned critical acclaim and multiple Oscar nominations back in 2018. Now, his second time stepping behind the camera for the Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro” is receiving similarly enthusiastic responses following its Netflix release on December 23rd.
Rave Reviews For Cooper’s Portrayal of the Famed Composer
Cooper spent years preparing for his role as Bernstein, learning to conduct and play piano convincingly. His demanding preparation and transformative performance are being hailed by critics:
“Cooper pulled out all the stops to inhabit Bernstein, and the result seems destined to earn Cooper his fifth Oscar nomination for acting.” – Decider
“It’s a career-best performance from Cooper, who disappears completely into the role.” – Orlando Weekly
The prosthetic nose Cooper wore to resemble Bernstein more closely prompted debates about representation. Still, many feel his performance captures Bernstein’s essence. As Jamie Bernstein, Leonard’s daughter, wrote:
“Bradley’s portrayal of him is the most realistic depiction of my father I’ve ever seen.”
Rave Reviews For the Film Overall
Beyond Cooper’s central performance, reviews have praised many elements of “Maestro,” including:
The Music – Critics highlight Cooper’s skill in letting Bernstein’s compositions shine while moving the narrative forward. Variety says “the musical elements sing as loudly as the dramatic ones.”
The Visuals – From lush shots of Tanglewood to creative transitions, cinematographer Matty Libatique earns praise: “It’s gorgeous work worthy of its own Oscar nomination,” per Decider.
While a few found the lengthy runtime excessive, most reviewers deem Cooper’s epic thoroughly engrossing. Many predict “Maestro” will contend for Best Picture at the 2023 Oscars.
Background on the Bernstein Biopic’s Long Journey
Bradley Cooper first expressed interest in helming and starring in a Bernstein biopic in 2018 shortly after “A Star is Born” premiered. However, the project dates back even further.
Table: Key Events in the Genesis of “Maestro”
|Martin Scorsese develops early concept for Bernstein biopic with Phil Alden Robinson writing the script
|Scorsese abandons the project; Cooper picks it up and begins developing his take
|Buzz builds at “A Star is Born” premiere parties; Cooper confirms his next directorial effort will be the Bernstein biopic
|Filming delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic
|Principal photography finally begins after years of preparations
|Post-production concludes; Netflix acquires distribution rights and sets Christmas weekend release date
As shown above, Cooper poured immense effort into researching Bernstein and honing his directing skills over 5+ years leading up to filming.
Spotlight on Transformational Performances
While Cooper’s demanding lead performance garners significant praise, his supporting cast also receives accolades for embodying iconic 20th century figures.
Carey Mulligan Dazzles as Felicia Montealegre
As Felicia Montealegre, the Chilean actress who captured Bernstein’s heart, Carey Mulligan continues her streak of stellar drama performances. She compellingly traces Felicia’s journey – from dazzling the young composer by reciting Edna St. Vincent Millay poems from memory, through the blissful early years of their marriage, to coping with her husband’s affairs as she battles lung cancer.
Quote on Mulligan’s Performance
“Carey Mulligan is tender and tragic as Bernstein’s wife…It’s a performance that Mulligan makes look effortless” – Orlando Weekly
Supporting Cast Embodies Arts Legends
While space does not permit highlighting every great supporting turn, actors playing historical figures like:
- Stephen Root as studio titan CBS President William S. Paley
- Maya Hawke as dancer Nora Kaye
- Sarah Silverman as Broadway producer Shirley Bernstein
…all disappear into their real-life inspirations. Of Cooper’s directorial acumen, Silverman shares:
“He made me feel very safe even when I felt very exposed.” – Playbill Interview
What Comes Next: Predictions and Impact
On December 23rd, 2023 – what would have been Bernstein’s 105th birthday – the legacy of the legendary composer and conductor enters an exciting new chapter.
“Maestro” Poised to Expand Bernstein’s Fame to New Generations
While Bernstein had already cemented a towering reputation across stage, screen and the concert hall by the time of his death in 1990, Cooper’s biopic offers a chance to catalyze an even wider Bernstein renaissance.
“One of Cooper’s stated goals with “Maestro” was to introduce younger generations to Bernstein’s storied life and staggering talents. On those terms alone, his movie sings.” – Decider
Oscar Attention Likely Just Starting
“Maestro” released slightly too late for critics groups and Golden Globe consideration. However, expect it to be nominated across multiple Oscar categories.
At minimum, Cooper seems assured of a Best Actor nomination. Supporting nods for Mulligan and perhaps Maya Hawke as Nora Kaye also seem probable. Meanwhile, Cooper stands a chance at becoming the 17th person ever nominated for directing, acting in and producing the same film. While the competition will be fierce, “Maestro” could potentially contend for Oscars in:
- Best Picture
- Best Actor (Cooper)
- Best Supporting Actress (Mulligan, Hawke)
- Best Directing
- Best Adapted Screenplay
- Best Original Score
- Best Cinematography
- Best Costume Design
- Best Production Design
Further Projects Bringing Bernstein’s Story to New Audiences
Beyond the accolades “Maestro” seems destined for this awards season, the Bernstein renaissance shows no signs of slowing down.
Meanwhile, Bernstein’s impact continues resounding through the talents he mentored. Legendary conductor Gustavo Dudamel, whose career exploded after studying Bernstein’s discography, led the spectacular Berlin Wall concert commemorating the 30th anniversary of the maestro’s historic performance following the barrier’s fall.
As Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan astonish critics with their uncanny transformations into Bernstein and his wife, “Maestro” constitutes one chapter of the timeless composer’s enduring legacy. Though he passed away over 30 years ago, Bernstein’s story clearly still resonates today. Through further adaptations and proteges like Dudamel advancing his musical vision, Bernstein’s titanic influence only continues growing.
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