The ultimate warts and all biopic of a classical musical great? Maestro isn’t that – nor does it set out to be. This is, after all, a Netflix production. It’s probably fair to say that the majority of its audience will be more familiar with its star and director, Bradley Cooper, than its subject, Leonard Bernstein.
Settle instead for an engrossing, exquisitely crafted melodrama that, while focused more on Bernstein’s homosexuality and marriage than his music, can still sweep you up in the sonic grandeur of an orchestra in full flight.
As director and lead actor, Cooper demonstrated his dual-duty skills admirably in his 2018 remake of A Star Is Born. In Maestro, he takes it to another level in a film that crackles with inventive energy.
The film begins in a mad rush of bravura camera moves in the moment in 1943 when the young Bernstein (revealed in bed with his lover, the clarinettist David Oppenheim) takes the phone call that changes his life: Maestro Bruno Walter has fallen ill; Bernstein is to conduct the New York Philharmonic...