Table of Contents
Exploring the Meaning of an Artist’s Life in ‘Maestro’
What does it mean to look at an artist’s life? To take a step back and lay out their work, amateur and seminal, and have a bird’s eye view of how they created, what motivated them and what satisfied them. It is an exercise that is easy to replicate but difficult to master. In Maestro, Bradley Cooper approaches this task uniquely, focussing on the interpersonal relationships of legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein.
As his second directorial venture, Maestro is a whirlwind journey that Cooper commands well. Written with Josh Singer, Cooper’s screenplay is a study of how these two aspects of Bernstein’s life inspired, and affected, each other. As the composer’s success grew, so did discontent in his married life.
Delving Into the Unique Approach of ‘Maestro’
Cooper specifically focuses on Bernstein’s nearly three decade-long marriage to Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan). Accompanied by Matthew Libatique’s visuals that seem to mimic the symphonic flows of Bernstein’s compositions, the film charts his relationship with Felicia, right from when they first met, to her eventual demise from cancer in 1978. This period also overlapped with the peak of Bernstein’s creative success.
Unraveling the Narrative of ‘Maestro’ as a Love Story
For anyone curious, Maestro is not a traditional biopic that familiarizes the audience with an artist’s work. Cooper’s writing is eager to move away from an expected method of chronicling the greatest hits of Bernstein, which is fair, but he moves so far away that even when the film brims with Bernstein’s compositions, their absence in Cooper’s portrayal is significant.
Understanding the Portrayal of Two Artists on Screen in ‘Maestro’
Many would have undoubtedly heard Bernstein’s compositions without being aware of his name. However, it would serve the film well if it remembered that it was portraying not one but two artists on screen. Felicia Montealegre Bernstein was a stage and television actress, who not only inspired Bernstein’s work but collaborated with him on occasion. Yet, you would not know much of this from Maestro.
Analyze the Relationship Dynamics in ‘Maestro’
The film didn’t go on to pick up the different narrative pieces that Felicia had to offer. Even billed as a love story and not a biopic, the script ends up as an unbalanced take. How their relationship with each other consumed their individual lives and the art, music, and performances they put out is a theme not given enough time.
The Impact of Performances in ‘Maestro’
Mulligan as Felicia overshadows Cooper’s performance. She infuses an otherwise surface-level part with a much-needed interiority. It is easy to be swept up in the sensationality of a composer like Bernstein, to be in admiration of his ability to create magnificence, and the film (and Cooper) is not immune to that.
The Verdict on ‘Maestro’
While Cooper can hold down the technical elements of a good film, his inability to bring the same control to the script does not go unnoticed. Maestro is a valiant attempt at a ‘biopic’, but falls short of being an enriching look at deeply creative lives.
To watch Maestro, it is now available for streaming on Netflix.
In conclusion, Maestro is a unique portrayal of Leonard Bernstein that delves into the complexities of his personal life, but falls short in fully capturing the dual artistic impact of him and Felicia Montealegre Bernstein.