Verdict: Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan are extraordinary but the film sagged in the middle.

Bradley Cooper plays Leonard Bernstein alongside Carey Mulligan as his wife Felicia Montealegre in this biopic.

Following his directorial debut, A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper is back with his latest outing, Maestro, a biopic about composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein.

This drama, directed, co-written, produced and starring Cooper, tells the story of the West Side Story composer, charting the highs and lows of his career and his marriage to Costa Rican-Chilean actress Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan).

Cooper spent many years preparing to play Bernstein – including working with the late composer’s children – and his hard work and dedication paid off. He inhabits the role so completely that you forget you’re watching Cooper – he becomes Bernstein.

This is most impressive during the conducting scenes. Bernstein had a very specific, theatrical way of leading an orchestra and Cooper replicates this with aplomb, particularly in the standout Ely Cathedral sequence.

There have been a lot of headlines about Cooper’s prosthetic nose, with some critics describing the look as ‘Jewface’. It is distracting in the opening scenes but you soon forget about it.

Maestro is a star vehicle for Cooper but he is actually outshone by his co-star Mulligan. While she should not have been cast as Montealegre due to her different heritage, her performance is moving and heartbreaking and she deserves an Oscar nomination.

Playing the put-upon wife of a musical genius is well-trodden territory but she brings something new to the table. Cooper occasionally goes too big and she counterbalances that effortlessly and keeps the drama grounded.

The performances were the strongest element of the film, which started and finished strong but sagged a little in the middle. Some of the dialogue felt awkward and the story could have done with more on Bernstein’s work instead of focusing on his marriage and sexuality. Thankfully, it all came together in the end and packed an emotional punch.

Maestro is a type of film that always goes down well with awards voters and both Cooper and Mulligan are highly likely to score Oscar nominations for their extraordinary work.

On Netflix from Wednesday 20th December.

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