Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan are being praised for their performances as Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre, respectively, in “Maestro,” despite a somewhat mixed reaction. The film made its debut Saturday at the Venice Film Festival to praise for its leads though the overall reaction has been more muted than anticipated.
Directed, co-written by and starring Cooper, the film tells the story of Bernstein and his relationship with his wife, as well as the acclaimed composer’s musical work. Co-written by Josh Singer, the drama also stars Matt Bomer, Maya Hawke and Sarah Silverman.
TheWrap’s Ben Croll said the film proves Cooper, who made his feature directorial debut with “A Star Is Born,” is no one-trick pony. “The filmmaker delights in oh-so-perfect match cuts, creates transitions that render the concept of off-stage obsolete and even stages a fantasy musical number as Lenny watches an early rehearsal for ‘On The Town,’” he said in his review.
Vulture critic Bilge Ebiri said, “There are a lot of great things in Bradley Cooper’s MAESTRO (chief among them Carey Mulligan’s performance) but the film mostly left me cold.”
Others expressed similar sentiments. This is Cooper’s sophomore feature after his emotionally charged remake of “A Star Is Born” in 2018 and freelance film critic Lex Briscuso expressed that he might have bitten off more than he could chew saying, “Cooper’s strong performance ends up ultimately outweighing his directorial eye.” Writer Yasmine Kandil called the film, “a solid but imperfect sophomore feature.”
“Maestro” drew criticism in August when the first trailer dropped with social media questioning whether it was appropriate for Cooper to wear a fake nose. The controversy became so pervasive the Bernstein family felt the need to respond, saying at the time that “It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose. Bradley chose to use makeup to amplify his resemblance, and we’re perfectly fine with that. We’re also certain that our dad would have been fine with it as well.”
The American Defamation League also responded with “Throughout history, Jews were often portrayed in antisemitic films and propaganda as evil caricatures with large, hooked noses. This film, which is a biopic on the legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, is not that.”
You can read what other critics are saying about the film below.
“Maestro” hits theaters Nov. 22 and will be streaming on Netflix on Dec. 20.