Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein biopic gets rave reviews despite prosthetic nose backlash

Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein and Carey Mulligan as Felicia Montealegre in the trailer for Maestro.

Reviews for Bradley Cooper’s latest film, Maestro, a biopic of queer Jewish composer Leonard Bernstein, are in – and it’s come in for acclaim despite ongoing backlash about Cooper’s user of a prosthetic nose.

Celebrity biopics never fail to divide audiences – even those that are yet to be seen are lightning rods for endless social media discourse.

Earlier this year, The White Lotus star Theo James met with criticism when it was reported that he’d be playing gay icon George Michael in a movie about the pop superstar’s life, despite being straight himself.

Similarly, Pose star Billy Porter had to deal with a wave of mixed opinions after it was revealed that he’ll be leading a biopic on American writer, James Baldwin. Then there’s the upcoming Amy Winehouse film, Back To Black, with Marisa Abela, which has faced criticism since day one.

Most recently, A Star Is Born director Cooper has begun the promotion for his latest film, Maestro.

Directed and starring Cooper as Bernstein, it tracks the American composer and his relationship with his wife, actress Felicia Montealegre (Saltburn‘s Carey Mulligan).

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Described as a complex yet “towering and fearless love story”, Maestro follows the couple’s romance across several decades, until her death in 1978.

Despite the pair’s relationship, Bernstein was known to have had affairs with men throughout his life, as seen in the film’s trailer, with Montealegre herself acknowledging her husband’s attraction to men.

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While Maestro tackles Bernstein’s legacy – he won countless Grammys, as well as two Tony Awards – the first look at Cooper as the musician whipped up controversy due to the actor wearing a prosthetic nose.

Bernstein was Jewish, and many viewed the use of a fake nose on Cooper – who is not Jewish – as endorsing a harmful stereotype. The film’s make-up artist has since apologised.

Prosthetics furore aside, the film has now premiered at Venice Film Festival, and there are plenty of kind words being said about it.

Writing in The Guardian, film critic Peter Bradshaw said the “heartfelt [film was] conceived with sincerity and taste”, and insisted that the “big nose isn’t a big deal”. He added that the “commanding” Cooper had an “eerie likeness” to Bernstein.

BBC film critic Nicholas Barber described the film as a hit, praising it as “a warm yet melancholy portrait” of the world-renowned conductor. While appreciating Cooper, he described Mulligan as a “sparkling tour de force”.

Similarly, The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin lauded both lead stars’ performances, calling them “dizzyingly, stunningly good”, and awarding the film a full five stars. And that nose? “Wholly inconspicuous,” apparently.

Also praising Cooper and Mulligan was The Independent’s Geoffrey Macnab, who called the former “effortlessly charming”, while the latter was “magnificent”. Oscars are likely to be on the cards, he predicted.

When Maestro premiered over the weekend, the “moving” biopic was met with an impressive seven-minute-long standing ovation. Meanwhile, review site Rotten Tomatoes currently has the film sitting with a 93 per cent approval rating.

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The film also stars several queer actors, including Stranger Things‘ Maya Hawke, Ugly Betty‘s Michael Urie, and Matt Bomer, soon to be seen in Fellow Travelers.

Maestro is due to open in selected cinemas on 22 November, before dropping on Netflix on 20 December.

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