Sunday, December 3, 2023

Maestro --- 4 Stars --- December 1, 2023 --- THEATERS --- Netflix

Maestro sweeps us into the whirlwind of composer/conductor/celebrity Leonard Bernstein, one of the most creative minds of the 20th Century.  Bradley Cooper's screenplay views Bernstein through the eyes of his wife Felicia, played by Carey Mulligan.  Her view steers us away from hero worship or greatest hits into the exasperation of a straight woman married to a bi-sexual genius. The Bernstein we see overflows with talent and ideas almost to the point of exhaustion.  The first third, in black and white, showing their courtship, celebrates American culture of the 40's and 50's.  They mingle with names casually dropped: Aaron Copeland, Bruno Walter, and Lorenz Hart.  A party scene with Betty Comden and Adolph Green delights.  Early on, director and star Bradley Cooper whisks Bernstein from his bed into the balcony of Carnegie Hall and onto the stage as a substitute conductor in a performance that makes him famous.  The lovers gallop from one setting to another, landing in the middle of Bernstein's "On the Town" ballet.  This creative genius comes with narcissism and a toll on those in the orbit.  Maestro's balance tilts toward Felicia, the grounding influence making Bernstein's success possible.  Bradley Cooper soars as Bernstein, however Carey Mulligan wins our attention.  I listen to classical music every day.  I have fond memories of a high school band teacher taking us through the brilliant score of West Side Story. I never admired Bernstein's conducting style---arms flying like a windmill.  I thought he distracted from the music.  I'm dropping my grudge after watching Maestro.