Maestro (2023 film)

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Maestro
Release poster
Directed byBradley Cooper
Written by
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyMatthew Libatique
Edited byMichelle Tesoro
Music byLeonard Bernstein
Production
companies
Distributed byNetflix
Release dates
  • September 2, 2023 (2023-09-02) (Venice)
  • November 22, 2023 (2023-11-22) (United States)
Running time
129 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$80 million[2]
Box office$823,787[3][4]

Maestro is a 2023 American biographical romantic drama film that centers on the relationship between American composer Leonard Bernstein and his wife Felicia Montealegre. It was directed by Bradley Cooper, from a screenplay he wrote with Josh Singer. It was produced by Cooper, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Fred Berner and Amy Durning [de]. The film stars Carey Mulligan as Montealegre alongside Cooper as Bernstein; Matt Bomer, Maya Hawke, and Sarah Silverman appear in supporting roles.

Maestro premiered at the 80th Venice International Film Festival on September 2, 2023, where it was nominated for the Golden Lion. The film received a limited theatrical release on November 22, 2023, before being released on Netflix on December 20. It received mixed-positive reviews from critics, with praise given to directing and the performances, especially those of Cooper and Mulligan, but criticism to the writing and presentation which has been considered “Oscar bait” and uninspired by some audiences. The film was named one of the top 10 films of 2023 by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute.[5][6] The film received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Cooper), and Best Actress (Mulligan), as well as nominations for seven BAFTA Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.


Plot[edit]

In 1987, Leonard Bernstein, at the age of nearly 70, plays a sequence on a piano from his opera A Quiet Place while being interviewed in his home.[7] After he finishes, he shares brief details regarding the significant impact left on him by Felicia, his wife of many years, and mentions seeing her ghost.

In 1943, Leonard—then the 25-year-old assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic—makes his conducting debut at short notice when guest conductor Bruno Walter falls ill. His exceptional performance receives a rapturous reception from the audience and catapults him to fame. Despite being in an intermittent relationship with clarinetist David Oppenheim, he falls for aspiring actress Felicia Montealegre at a party and the two begin dating. He breaks up with David, who is heartbroken but reluctantly accepts Leonard's choice. Leonard and Felicia ultimately marry and have three children: Jamie, Alexander, and Nina. Throughout their marriage, they are seen supporting each other in their careers.

By the mid-1950s, the Bernsteins live a highly affluent life in the public eye, with Leonard having composed several successful operas and Broadway musicals, including Candide and West Side Story. Felicia combats concerns raised about Leonard's affairs with men, insistent that she holds rein over him as his wife. As the years pass, however, Leonard's dalliances—as well as his alcohol and substance abuse—take a deep toll on their marriage. These issues are compounded when Jamie hears whispers of her father's infidelity. Leonard attempts to deny the rumors as fueled by "jealousies".

One Thanksgiving, after Leonard returns home to their apartment in The Dakota late from a bender, he and Felicia have an explosive argument where she insists that he has hate in his heart, and will "die a lonely old queen" if he continues on his current path.[8] Despite the breakdown of their relationship, the couple remains married through Leonard's composition of Mass in 1971. In 1973, Leonard conducts Mahler's Resurrection Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra in a legendary performance at Ely Cathedral, England. Amidst the uproarious reception, Felicia reconciles with Leonard, insistent that "there's no hate in [his] heart".

Felicia is diagnosed with breast cancer which has metastasized to the lung; despite surgeries and an aggressive chemotherapy regimen, her condition deteriorates, and she dies in Leonard's arms in 1978. Overcome with grief, Leonard and the children abandon their lavish home shortly afterward. Leonard is shown once again in 1987, teaching the art of conducting and still partying, as well as having affairs with his much younger male students. Returning to the interview, Leonard admits that he misses Felicia terribly, before his mind flashes back to an image of her, back in their youth, walking into their yard.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

In 2008, producers Fred Berner and Amy Durning [de] approached the Bernstein family to negotiate Leonard Bernstein's life and music rights. Once retaining rights, Berner and Durning approached Josh Singer to develop and write a screenplay and attached Martin Scorsese as a director. The project went into development at Paramount Pictures.[9]

In 2017, Scorsese stepped down as director to work on The Irishman. Briefly, Steven Spielberg considered directing the film and approached Bradley Cooper to star. When Spielberg decided not to direct the film, Cooper said he wanted to "throw his hat in the ring" as a possible director. In May 2018 Cooper was firmly attached as both director and to star as Bernstein, after Spielberg saw a pre-release screening of A Star Is Born.[10] Berner, Durning, and Scorsese continued on as producers alongside Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger of Amblin Entertainment. In January 2020, the project was moved to Netflix.[11]

Casting[edit]

In September 2020, the project was given the title Maestro with Carey Mulligan joining the cast. It was also announced that filming would begin in the spring of 2021.[12] In October, Jeremy Strong joined the cast as John Gruen, but later dropped out due to scheduling conflicts; Josh Hamilton was cast in his place.[13][14] In March 2022, Matt Bomer joined the cast.[15] Bomer would be confirmed in April, with Maya Hawke also announced as being cast.[16] In June, Sarah Silverman was announced as playing Bernstein's sister Shirley.[17] In February 2023, Michael Urie was announced to be appearing in the film as Jerome Robbins.[18] In April 2023, it was reported that Miriam Shor was a part of the cast.[19][20][21]

Filming[edit]

Filming was initially expected to begin on April 5, 2021, in Los Angeles;[22] but instead began in May 2022.[16][23] Production occurred at Tanglewood between May 21 and 26,[24] Fairfield, Connecticut at Bernstein’s home, and in New York City. Filming also took place at Ely Cathedral in England between October 20 and 22.[25]

Soundtrack[edit]

Maestro features Bernstein compositions that were handpicked by Cooper. Those pieces were performed by the London Symphony Orchestra with a few choral performances by the London Symphony Chorus, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin who also served as Cooper's conducting coach. The soundtrack was preceded with an excerpt from the finale of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection" as a single on October 20. The full soundtrack was released by Deutsche Grammophon digitally on November 10 and was released physically on December 1.[26] The music played by Bernstein at the piano during the prologue comes from his 1983 opera A Quiet Place which depicts a dysfunctional family, including an estranged gay son whose mother has just died.[7]

Release[edit]

Maestro premiered at the 80th Venice International Film Festival on September 2, 2023, where it was nominated for the Golden Lion.[27] It received a gala screening as part of the New York Film Festival's spotlight program on October 2, 2023, making it the first film to hold a premiere at the new David Geffen Hall. Cooper attended the event but did not participate in the post-film Q&A due to restrictions imposed during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike.[28][29] Additionally, Maestro screened at the BFI London Film Festival and closed the AFI Fest.[30][31] The film began a limited theatrical release in the United States on November 22, 2023, with engagements in Dolby Cinema, before streaming on Netflix on December 20, 2023.[32][33]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Although Netflix does not publicly report box office grosses, IndieWire estimated the film made about $200,000 from eight theaters in its opening weekend (and a total of $300,000 over the five-day Thanksgiving frame), which would make it the most successful debut for the company since at least 2019.[34]

Critical response[edit]

The performances of Carey Mulligan and Bradley Cooper garnered positive reviews, earning them Academy Award nominations for Best Actress and Best Actor respectively,

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 78% of 330 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.4/10. The website's consensus reads: "Led by a pair of powerful performances, Maestro serves as a stirring overview of a tremendous talent's life and legacy."[35] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 77 out of 100, based on 62 critics, indicating "generally favorable" reviews.[36]

The performances and Cooper's direction received praise, with BBC Culture's Nicholas Barber complimenting Cooper's "technical virtuosity" and ability to "fulfill [his] ambitions with flair",[37] and David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter lauding the film's depiction of marriage and describing Mulligan's role as "heartbreaking".[38] Adam Graham of Detroit News wrote, "Maestro comes alive as Cooper filters Bernstein's passion for life and all its grand indulgences into an intensely physical performance, which peaks in a sweat-drenched conducting sequence that bursts off the screen."[39]

Conversely, Richard Brody of The New Yorker criticized the film for disregarding parts of Bernstein's life, writing that "The movie's general lack of candor matches its scrupulous avoidance of controversy and complexity, which does no justice to the complex and controversial characters at the center of the film."[40]

In a review for El País, Carlos Boyero wrote: "Cooper whimsically uses color and black and white to portray his life, and exotic planning to recount Bernstein’s present and past. And in the way he describes him, I fail to figure out where his appeal and genius lies. I’m getting confused. I just don’t like him, I don’t care about him, I’m not bothered about his achievements and his failures."[41] while la La Repubblica called the film "a non-conventional biopic, part musical, part melodrama".[42]

Use of prosthetic[edit]

Cooper's use of a large prosthetic nose to portray Bernstein, who was Jewish, was criticized by some as an example of "Jewface", following the release of photographs from the set of the film in May 2023 and the subsequent release of the trailer in August.[43] The chief television critic of The Hollywood Reporter, Daniel Fienberg, criticized the casting of Cooper in a Twitter post, along with the British gentile Mulligan as a Costa Rican-Chilean converted Jew, as "a LOT of ethnic cosplay for one movie".[44] English Jewish actress Tracy-Ann Oberman wrote that if Cooper "can't [play the role] through the power of acting alone then don't cast him – get a Jewish actor". She felt that as Cooper had portrayed Joseph Merrick, a 19th-century British man who had severe facial deformities, without prosthetics, "then he should be able to manage to play a Jewish man without one".[43]

Bernstein's children defended Cooper's use of prosthetic makeup to portray him, stating that they worked with Cooper throughout the filmmaking process and that their "dad would have been fine with it".[45] The Anti-Defamation League noted historical media portrayal of Jews as "evil caricatures with large, hooked noses" but said that "this film, which is a biopic, ... is not that".[46] In September 2023, Kazu Hiro, who created the prosthetic, said that he was surprised by the criticism but was "sorry if [he] hurt some people's feelings". He added that "our only intention" was to portray Bernstein "as authentically as possible".[47]

The New Yorker published an essay defending the special effects make-up used by Hiro in the film and numbered him as among the top three or four special effects make-up artists of the past fifty years stating the film's background intentions as: "In the beginning, Hiro worked on a prosthetic treatment that was, in Cooper's words, 'totally Lenny'. But Cooper felt that it didn't look real. 'We wanted to find a medium between Lenny and me', he explained, 'so we created this hybrid.' The most difficult years for Hiro to re-create were Bernstein's final ones. Even late in life, Bernstein was flirtatious. Cooper felt that the seventy-something Bernstein still needed to look a bit 'sexy'."[48]

Accolades[edit]

With this film, co-producer Steven Spielberg extended his record for the most Best Picture nominations for an individual to 13.[49] Bradley Cooper, who became the fifteenth person to direct himself to a Best Actor nomination for A Star Is Born (2018), has now become the fifth person to have done so more than once.[50]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards March 10, 2024 Best Picture Bradley Cooper, Steven Spielberg, Fred Berner, Amy Durning [de] and Kristie Macosko Krieger Nominated [51]
Best Actor Bradley Cooper Nominated
Best Actress Carey Mulligan Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer Nominated
Best Cinematography Matthew Libatique Nominated
Best Makeup and Hairstyling Kazu Hiro, Kay Georgiou and Lori McCoy-Bell Nominated
Best Sound Steven A. Morrow, Richard King, Jason Ruder, Tom Ozanich and Dean Zupancic Nominated
American Film Institute January 12, 2024 Top Ten Films of the Year Maestro Won [52]
AACTA International Awards February 8, 2024 Best Direction Bradley Cooper Nominated [53]
Best Actor Nominated
Best Actress Carey Mulligan Nominated
Best Screenplay Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer Nominated
AARP Movies for Grownups Awards January 17, 2024 Best Movie for Grownups Maestro Nominated [54]
[55]
Best Time Capsule Won
Alliance of Women Film Journalists January 3, 2024 Best Actor Bradley Cooper Nominated [56]
Best Cinematography Matthew Libatique Nominated
Best Editing Michelle Tesoro Nominated
American Society of Cinematographers March 3, 2024 Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Matthew Libatique Nominated [57]
American Cinema Editors March 3, 2024 Best Edited Feature Film (Drama, Theatrical) Michelle Tesoro Nominated [58]
Art Directors Guild of America Awards February 10, 2024 Excellence for a Period Film Kevin Thompson Nominated [59]
Artios Awards March 7, 2024 Outstanding Achievement in Casting – Big Budget Feature (Drama) Shayna Markowitz, Dayna Katz Nominated [60]
Astra Awards January 6, 2024 Best Picture Maestro Nominated [61]
Best Director Bradley Cooper Nominated
Best Actor Nominated
Best Actress Carey Mulligan Nominated
February 26, 2024 Best Cinematography Matthew Libatique Nominated
Best Hair and Makeup Kazu Hiro Won
Best Sound Maestro Nominated
Austin Film Critics Association January 10, 2024 Best Cinematography Matthew Libatique Nominated [62]
Best Editing Michelle Tesoro Nominated
Black Film Critics Circle [fr] December 20, 2023 Top Ten Films Maestro 9th Place [63]
British Academy Film Awards February 12, 2024 Best Director Bradley Cooper Nominated [64]
Best Actor Nominated
Best Actress Carey Mulligan Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer Nominated
Best Cinematography Matthew Libatique Nominated
Best Makeup & Hair Kazu Hiro Nominated
Best Sound Maestro Nominated
British Society of Cinematographers February 3, 2024 Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature Film Matthew Libatique Nominated [65]
Camerimage November 18, 2023 Golden Frog Matthew Libatique Nominated [66]
Capri Hollywood International Film Festival January 2, 2024 Visionary Award Bradley Cooper Won [67]
Best Actress Carey Mulligan Won
Best Makeup and Hairstyling Kazu Hiro Won
Best Sound Maestro Won
Producers of the Year Fred Berner, Bradley Cooper,
Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg,
Amy Durning [de], Kristie Macosko Krieger
Won
Cinema Audio Society Awards March 2, 2024 Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Motion Picture – Live Action Steven A. Morrow, Tom Ozanich, Dean A. Zupancic,
Nick Baxter, Bobby Johanson, Walter Spencer
Nominated [68]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards January 14, 2024 Best Picture Maestro Nominated [69]
Best Director Bradley Cooper Nominated
Best Actor Nominated
Best Actress Carey Mulligan Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer Nominated
Best Cinematography Matthew Libatique Nominated
Best Makeup Kazu Hiro Nominated
Best Film Editing Michelle Tesoro Nominated
Costume Designers Guild Awards February 21, 2024 Excellence in Period Film Mark Bridges Nominated [70]
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association December 18, 2023 Best Film Maestro 7th place [71]
Best Actor Bradley Cooper 3rd place
Best Actress Carey Mulligan 3rd place
Denver Film Critics Society [fr] January 12, 2024 Best Lead Performance by an Actor, Male Bradley Cooper Nominated [72]
Best Lead Performance by an Actor, Female Carey Mulligan Nominated
Dublin Film Critics' Circle December 18, 2023 Best Director Bradley Cooper 10th place [73]
Best Actor Bradley Cooper 3rd place
Best Actress Carey Mulligan Runner-up
Florida Film Critics Circle December 21, 2023 Best Actor Bradley Cooper Runner-up [74]
Georgia Film Critics Association January 5, 2024 Best Actor Bradley Cooper Nominated [75]
Best Actress Carey Mulligan Nominated
Best Cinematography Matthew Libatique Nominated
Gotham Independent Film Awards November 27, 2023 Icon & Creator Tribute Bradley Cooper Won [76]
Golden Globe Awards January 7, 2024 Best Motion Picture – Drama Maestro Nominated [77]
Best Director Bradley Cooper Nominated
Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Nominated
Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Carey Mulligan Nominated
Golden Reel Awards March 3, 2024 Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Feature Dialogue / ADR Richard King, Rich Bologna, Tony Martinez, Eliza Paley, Jac Rubenstein, Fred Rosenberg, Jason Ruder Nominated [78]
Outstanding Achievement in Music Editing – Feature Motion Picture Jason Ruder, Victoria Ruggiero Won
ICG Publicists Awards March 8, 2024 Maxwell Weinberg Award for Motion Picture Publicity Campaign Maestro Pending [79]
Indiana Film Journalists Association [fr] December 17, 2023 Best Lead Performance Carey Mulligan Nominated [80]
[81]
Best Editing Michelle Tesoro Nominated
Best Cinematography Matthew Libatique Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle January 27, 2024 Tom Poe Award for the Best LGBTQ Film Maestro Runner-up [82]
Las Vegas Film Critics Society [fr] December 13, 2023 Best Picture Nominated [83]
Best Director Bradley Cooper Nominated
Best Actor Won
Best Actress Carey Mulligan Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer Won
Best Cinematography Matthew Libatique Nominated
Best Film Editing Michelle Tesoro Nominated
London Film Critics' Circle February 4, 2024 Actor of the Year Bradley Cooper Nominated [84]
Actress of the Year Carey Mulligan Nominated
British/Irish Performer of the Year Nominated
Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild February 18, 2024 Best Period and/or Character Make-Up Siân Grigg, Jackie Risotto,
Elisa Tallerico, Nicky Pattison-Illum
Won [85]
Best Period Hair Styling and/or Character Hair Styling Kay Georgiou, Lori McCoy-Bell,
Jameson Eaton, Amanda Duffy-Evans
Nominated
Best Special Make-Up Effects Kazu Hiro, Siân Grigg,
Duncan Jarman, Mike Mekash
Won
Middleburg Film Festival October 22, 2023 Distinguished Makeup Artist Award Kazu Hiro Won [86]
Minnesota Film Critics Alliance February 4, 2024 Best Picture Maestro Nominated [87]
Best Actor Bradley Cooper Nominated
Best Actress Carey Mulligan Nominated
Best Cinematogrpahy Matthew Libatique Nominated
Best Editing Michelle Tesoro Nominated
Best Costume/Make-Up Mark Bridges and Kazu Hiro Nominated
Best Sound Maestro Nominated
National Board of Review December 6, 2023 Top Ten Films Maestro Won[a] [88]
Nevada Film Critics Society [fr] December 23, 2023 Best Actor Bradley Cooper Won [89]
New York Film Critics Online December 15, 2023 Top 10 Films Maestro Won[a] [90]
Oklahoma Film Critics Circle [de] January 3, 2024 Most Disappointing Film Won [91]
Palm Springs International Film Festival January 4, 2024 International Star Award – Actress Carey Mulligan Won [92]
Phoenix Film Critics Society [pt] December 18, 2023 Top Ten Films of 2023 Maestro Won[a] [93]
Producers Guild of America Awards February 25, 2024 Best Theatrical Motion Picture Maestro Nominated [94]
San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle January 9, 2024 Best Actor Bradley Cooper Nominated [95]
Santa Barbara International Film Festival February 8, 2024 Outstanding Performer of the Year Won [96]
Satellite Awards February 18, 2024 Best Film Maestro Nominated [97]
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Bradley Cooper Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Carey Mulligan Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer Won
Best Cinematography Matthew Libatique Won
Best Editing Michelle Tesoro Nominated
Best Sound Maestro Won
Best Production Design Kevin Thompson and Rena DeAngelo Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards February 24, 2024 Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role Bradley Cooper Nominated [98]
Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role Carey Mulligan Nominated
Set Decorators Society of America Awards February 13, 2024 Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a Period Feature Film Rena DeAngelo and Kevin Thompson Nominated [99]
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association December 17, 2023 Best Picture Maestro Nominated [100]
Best Actor Bradley Cooper Nominated
Best Cinematography Matthew Libatique Runner-up
Best Editing Michelle Tosoro Nominated
Best Soundtrack Maestro Nominated
Best Scene Mahler's Second Symphony in Ely Cathedral Nominated
Vancouver Film Critics Circle February 12, 2024 Best Male Actor Bradley Cooper Nominated [101]
Venice International Film Festival September 9, 2023 Golden Lion Bradley Cooper Nominated [102]
Queer Lion Nominated [103]
Virginia Film Festival October 29, 2023 Craft Award Kazu Hiro Won [104]
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association December 10, 2023 Best Actor Bradley Cooper Nominated [105]
Best Cinematography Matthew Libatique Nominated
Best Editing Michelle Tesoro Nominated
  1. ^ a b c This award does not have a single winner as it recognizes multiple films.

References[edit]

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