MPA Rating: R
Director: Bradley Cooper
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Matt Bomer
Runtime: 2 hrs 9 mins
What It Is: Director Bradley Cooper takes on the life of composer Leonard Bernstein (Cooper) and his loving though somewhat rocky marriage to Hollywood actress Felicia Montealegre (Mulligan). His ascension from regular music student to one of the 20th centuries most prolific American composers. A love ever lasting for these two characters who start out as wide-eyed children. And we, the audience get to see their evolution. One that occurs together. Two souls destined to be in one and others circles.
What We Think: Obvious Oscar-bait is obvious. It’s clear that Cooper is shooting for awards season success. This film is: a biopic, one with transformative makeup, featuring an elongated (read bloated) runtime. It’s also clear Cooper is probably a little pissed he didn’t win the Best Actor (he rightfully should have). Carey Mulligan gives a stunning performance here and in most scenes outshines Cooper. There’s a delicate balance here between the two leads and they do have a ton of excellent chemistry. What really hurts the film is the faux prestige of the entire thing. Cooper, clearly, loves film and uses a changing aspect ratio in order to tell the story throughout time. That part is so good and I have to say it’s a GORGEOUS film. This beautiful look is no surprise because cinematographer Matthew Libatique is one of the most underrated eyes in cinema.
Our Grade: B-, Netflix obviously keeps making these prestige biopics for no other reason then generating awards nominations. Cooper doesn’t stand a chance at winning any Oscars. This says nothing about the overt weirdness of casting himself as Bernstein and using stereotypical “Jewish” makeup. Mulligan, even though she’s great is not from any known Latin American country. She’s portraying a Costa Rican woman. One who can speak Spanish. That decision for me is one I find HIGHLY irritating. Ball was in your court Coops. You fumbled it away. This is on Netflix but like who actually cares. If it weren’t for the utterly marvelous craftsmanship here…this would be rated way lower.