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J. McVay and Charles Hinshaw discuss Bradley Cooper’s second film as a director and co-writer. Maestro stars Cooper as conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, Carey Mulligan as his wife Felicia, and is available on Netflix.
Before 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper may have seemed like he was destined to be in nothing but pulpy movies like Limitless or bro-flicks like The Hangover – at the time, both fairly recent hits for him that had already changed his career and made him a more bankable leading man. But Silver Linings Playbook put him into that different category of quote-unquote “serious actor” seemingly destined to one day win an Academy Award. And 2018’s A Star Is Born proved him also a serious prospect as a writer and director. So anticipation for his second film as a triple hyphenate actor-writer-director, Maestro, was obviously highly anticipated.
Unfortunately, there’s also been a certain narrative building up around Cooper – at least with the very-online portion of the film commentariat – that his supposed thirst to prove himself by winning an Oscar and being taken seriously as not only an actor, but an all around filmmaker is cringey and unseemly. But if you can deliver the goods, maybe you deserve a bit of allowance in that regard.
And ultimately, Cooper has the goods. Between Maestro and A Star Is Born, he’s clearly proven himself to be a great director. As far as acting goes, I don’t think the jury was still out on that one.
Really, the only real problem with Maestro, which portrays the relationship between famed conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein and his wife Felicia, is its screenplay… which, counter-intuitively, is not to say the writing is bad, necessarily. Each scene is internally impressive on its own, but the film as a whole lacks a solid throughline and feels disjointed and unfocused. Perhaps this can at least be partly attributed to the decision to position the film as if it’s actually more about Felicia (wonderfully played by Carey Mulligan, by the way) than it is about Bernstein himself. It’s a perplexing decision because it leaves Bernstein feeling inadequately explored, while the centering of Felicia seems forced and, itself, inadequately justified.
All that said, it’s not everyday we get a movie as otherwise beautifully shot, crafted, and performed as Maestro, so here’s hoping the next screenplay Cooper co-writes is up to his skills as a director and performer, as well as the skills of the excellent crew and cast he surrounds himself with.
Mentioned in the episode:
Stereoactive Presents: Oscars Nomination Reactions for 2023 Films
- Producer/Host: J. McVay
- Guests: Charles Hinshaw
- Music: Hansdale Hsu
- Produced by Stereoactive Media