Bradley Cooper Maestro

Everything wrong with Bradley Cooper’s insufferable Maestro performance

If he wins the Oscar I will fall to my knees

There’s one film nominated for the 2024 Academy Awards that’s well and truly stinking up the proceedings. Of course, every year we see the same vein of Oscar bait biopics on their hands and needs begging the Academy for a crumb of trophy. This year we’ve got the truly dreadful Nyad – a film that wants to put itself across as an inspirational story but comes off more as a villain origin story and Bradley Cooper with Maestro, an overwrought, overblown mess of a film that takes showboating to new heights. The Academy spared us with having to endure Nyad in the Best Picture category, but Maestro is haunting the nominees like an annoying poltergeist. There’s not a hope in hell it will win, but a worrying thought still looms: Bradley Cooper nominated for Best Actor for what he turned out in Maestro. Here’s my musings on everything that Bradley Cooper and his Maestro performance did wrong.

I knew very little of Leonard Bernstein til I watched Maestro, so my education was in the hands of Bradley Cooper both in his director position and his acting performance. Bernstein is clearly a fascinating character. There is a lot of good going on in Maestro, mostly down to the subject being so interesting and the dynamics of his romantic life. Bradley Cooper nails it in the way he pushes Carey Mulligan to give the greatest performance of her career as Bernstein’s wife Felicia Montealegre. He also wisely and correctly gives Mulligan top billing – she steals the film and is responsible for every bit of its merit. Not that all that lets Bradley Cooper put his own ego aside at all.

Despite the fact this is far and away Carey Mulligan’s film, Bradley Cooper spends every second on the big screen doing too much. He is giving bells and whistles at every possible avenue. Whether he’s behind the camera, swooping it about in heightened and stylised showy moments or in front of it letting us all know how great he is, how versatile his performance is, how much of a chameleon he is in his prosthetics and aged makeup. Or perhaps once again we need to be informed that it took him six years to learn how to conduct an orchestra. We know, we know. We’ve heard it!

I would actually like to go on record to say I actually really like Bradley Cooper as an actor most of the time. I absolutely loved his debut feature A Star is Born, and think that film was incredibly classy, moving and extremely well acted from both him and Lady Gaga. But where A Star is Born really gets the balance of the musical and the emotional drama perfectly balanced, Cooper throws it all out the window and decided to throw EVERYTHING last Maestro in what comes across as the most desperate plea for an Oscar in recent memory.

Every bead of sweat and flying drops of spit that radiate off Bradley Cooper in Maestro reads as an on all fours beg for a trophy. It’s fine to want to win the Oscar, but we shouldn’t be able to see it in your eyes whilst you act. And herein lies the problem: How Bradley Cooper can go up against the likes of Paul Giamatti and his nuanced, thoughtful, hilarious and downright beautiful performance in The Holdovers? How can he toe to toe with Cillian Murphy’s stoney faced, traumatised portrayal of Oppenheimer? For 2025, we need to put an end to overblown Oscar bait biopic performances. “Look at me I’m playing old!”, Look at me I’m playing bisexual!” Get real.

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