A Study of Emotions

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Matt Bomer, Sarah Silverman, Mallory Portnoy and Michael Line
Director: Bradley Cooper|
Scriptwriters: Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Cinematography: Matthew Libatique
Rating: R for themed material|
Running Length:  129 Minutes
Leonard Bernstein   8/25/18 to 10/14/90
Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein   2/6/22 to 6/16/78

Leonard Bernstein was a creative force unto itself. During his prime time from 1943 to his passing in 1990,  he was the Mozart of his era. Constantly creative and coming to prominence as a second-choice replacement conductor in 1943.  Bradley Cooper (“A Star Is Born”) takes on the role of Bernstein, using facial aids and practicing with current prominent orchestra conductors, he achieves the intensity of Bernstein’s directing. This film isn’t about Leonard Bernstein alone, it concerns the marriage between he and Felicia Montealegre Cohn (well played by Carey Mulligan) that produced three children Jamie, Alexander and Nina.  What is brought out in “Maestro” is Bernstein’s life away from his family, and he preferred male companions. Felicity knew and they still had a marriage until her death in 1978. The legacy of Leonard Bernstein is music for orchestra, choral and “West Side Story,” “Candide,”  soundtrack for “On The Waterfront”, “Wonderful Town” and “Mass.”

“Maestro” begins in 1989 with Bernstein at a piano remembering and then it is 1943 and he is 25 years old, suddenly asked to be a substitute conductor (no rehearsals) for the New York Philharmonic. Bruno Walter was at that time, the conductor. Bernstein is such a hit he is marveled around the world and thus his stature begins. Later, he meets his future wife, Felicia and the film shows his triumphs, their family, his affairs away from home, and her passing from cancer. The word “love” can have more than one meaning, and in “Maestro” it means to have a double life and so well-known at the top that no one dares rock your boat. However, Felicia tells him that he “will die a lonely old queen.” She has a career, a family, a famous husband and wealth.  He has a wife, a family, a life away from home and fame and fortune. Grab on to the train of good future and lasting fame and hold on tight. How two people manage to hold this marriage together is laid out in front of the audience. When push comes to shove, talent comes to the forefront. It has a life of its own in Leonard Bernstein.

In “Maestro,” Bradley Cooper actually conducted the orchestra for Gustav Mahler’s “Resurrection Symphony" presented at Ely Cathedral in London. He has Bernstein down pat here. Bernstein is also noted for the famed “Young People’s Concerts” in which he reached out to the youth with history of music. Other musicians of the time that are presented in the film include Michael Urie as Jerry Robbins (“West Side Story”), Nick Blaemire as Adolph Green and Mallory Portnoy as Betty Comden (“On The Town.”) and Brian Klugman as Aaron Copeland (“Fanfare for the Common Man.”) Cooper inhabits the role of Bernstein and does a stellar job as both film director and star.

Carey Mulligan, as the other half of the marriage, does her stellar job as a woman in love, but also seeing, as time goes on, that her husband has two lives and she is allowed one. Her enthusiasm with life is what catches the eye of Leonard and the life they lead---at the top of the music world---keeps them going. The diagnosis of cancer comes as a shock and Mulligan does this battle with skill.

I was caught up with the intensity of acting and the music presented. Starting with a no-rehearsal directing a major orchestra to having enough talent to fill a stadium and then some, the script shows two lives of a man who couldn’t let go of either life.  He had to have it all. Oscar nominations are sure to come for Cooper and Mulligan.

Copyright 2024 Marie Asner