Carey Mulligan’s portrayal of Felicia Montealegre is a study in reactive performance, filled with heartbreaking universality. She takes on the role of Bernstein’s wife, a character who must respond to her husband’s brilliance, love, and slights.
Mulligan’s ability to convey the emotional rollercoaster of Felicia’s life is truly captivating. In contrast, Bradley Cooper’s performance as Leonard Bernstein, while masterful in its reconstruction, often feels earthbound and somewhat detached.
A Reconstruction Effort
Cooper meticulously reconstructs Bernstein’s persona, delving into every TV appearance and documentary footage to replicate the conductor’s diction, mannerisms, and rapid-fire way of speaking.
While this effort is commendable, it results in a performance that feels like a continuous TV interview, with Bernstein constantly aware of the camera’s presence.
The film opens with an aged Bernstein being interviewed, setting the stage for a narrative that suggests Bernstein’s life was a perpetual performance, a theme intertwined with his fame and impact on classical music through television.
“Maestro” showcases Bradley Cooper’s directorial vision, even though the film may not achieve complete success. One standout scene is the recreation of a pivotal moment in Bernstein’s life when he received a phone call in 1943, altering the course of classical music history.
Cooper’s direction shines as he captures the essence of this transformative event, with a massive curtain dominating the screen and an explosion of light symbolizing Bernstein’s rise to celebrity.
A Selective Focus
“Maestro” is not a lengthy or exhaustive biopic but rather a selective exploration of Bernstein’s life, centered on his marriage to Felicia, his homosexuality, and his conducting career, all intricately connected.
The film beautifully portrays Felicia’s understanding of Lenny, emphasizing their chemistry and her remarkable strength. In contrast, Lenny’s conducting performances reveal an inner restlessness, a longing to break free from his persona and discover his true self.
While “Maestro” explores a beautiful and moving idea, it seems emotionally stunted, possibly due to its foundation in suppression and denial. Carey Mulligan’s Felicia shines as a character who knows herself deeply, while Lenny remains a restless dynamo, a man who never fully self-actualized.
The film offers brief glimpses of unguarded freedom, mirroring Bernstein’s own quest for self-discovery, yet it remains a tantalizing glimpse, leaving the audience with a sense of unresolved tension.
In the Spirit of Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein once said, “A work of art does not answer questions, it provokes them.” In many ways, “Maestro” embodies this sentiment, leaving viewers with contradictory answers and a sense of lingering questions. The film may be frustratingly unresolved, but perhaps, in the spirit of Bernstein himself, that’s precisely as it should be.
Q1: Who are the main stars of “Maestro”?
“Maestro” features Carey Mulligan in the role of Felicia Montealegre and Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein.
Q2: What is the focus of the film “Maestro”?
“Maestro” primarily explores the marriage of Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre, as well as Bernstein’s career as a conductor and his personal struggles, including his homosexuality.
Q3: How does Carey Mulligan’s performance compare to Bradley Cooper’s in “Maestro”?
Carey Mulligan’s performance as Felicia Montealegre is emotionally resonant and captivating, while Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of Leonard Bernstein is meticulous but often feels detached and earthbound.