Maestro 2023 Movie Review
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Maestro 2023 Movie Review

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Maestro 2023 Movie Review

Think of a biopic of a famous person as like a complex cake – you can carefully dissect one slice of it to examine the contents, or you can bravely try to examine the whole lot to see what it’s made of.

This biopic of American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein is like looking at only the surface of the cake through a slice of Swiss cheese – a lot of loosely connected vignettes with no depth. If you don’t know much about the man, you would leave the theatre with no great insights about him.

The film jumps around in time and gives you snippets of the man’s life and work. There are scenes about his bisexuality and penchant for men, his role as a conductor and composer, his drug addictions and his relationship with his daughter, but none of these are examined in any depth at all. His bipolar relationship with his wife and her later death from cancer are given the most screen time, but still feels unfulfilled and lacking in substance.

Bradley Cooper directs in a rather disjointed style. The first half is shot in black and white, then we change to colour for no good reason except maybe historical chronology – it doesn’t work. Neither does the curiously tight aspect ratio, which again inexplicably opens up to full screen near the end. Some scenes are beautifully shot but too often Cooper relies on the slow zoom in and the very long takes, which don’t always seem to match the scene. The film also could have ended perfectly with the penultimate scene, but inexplicably ruins the moment with one extra shot that completely fails to land.

Carey Mulligan is excellent as Bernstein’s wife but Cooper as Bernstein doesn’t quite work for me. He tends to overact, gives you little insight into the man himself, and the nasal voice starts to grate after a while – maybe it was inevitable with the prosthetic nose he was required to wear.

Even the grand concert scene in the cathedral, conducting his beloved Mahler, didn’t quite generate the depth of feeling it could have – contrast this with the Tchaikovsky concert scene in the French-Russian film Le Concert, which takes emotion (actors and viewers) to a much higher level.

All in all this is not a bad movie, and to be fair it does engage the viewer a little more in the second half. But it tackles too many themes with a disturbing superficiality, giving very little substance to almost any. It could have been a lot better. No doubt however it will get lots of Oscar nominations, but then the Academy lost the plot years ago and succumbs to hype more than merit.

Maestro 2023 Movie Review

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