Metacritic (5/10), Letterboxd (2.5/5), Imdb.com (5/10), TMDB.com (2.5/5)

A great talent deserves a great biopic. Regrettably, in the case of the late conductor/composer/musician Leonard Bernstein, he doesn’t get it. Writer-actor-director Bradley Cooper has made a film that I’m sure he thinks of as his cinematic masterpiece when, in fact, it comes across more like a tribute to the filmmaker’s own ego than as an homage to his subject. Perhaps the biggest problem here is the screenplay, which can never really decide if it wants to be a litany of the accomplishments of the artist (Cooper) or a love story between him and his adoring wife, Felicia (Carey Mulligan). The constant switching back and forth between the two leaves viewers wondering which will be the focus that the director settles on. Then there’s Cooper’s increasingly hammy overacting, which grows progressively annoying as the film plays out, a performance riddled with knowing looks of “I know I’m going to get awards nominations for this portrayal.” Add to that a somewhat inexplicable shift from monochrome to color cinematography, and audiences are left further pondering the filmmaker’s cinematic motivations while simultaneously having to contend with notably underdeveloped depictions of the character’s motivations, making for a rather shallow take overall when it comes to exploring the protagonist’s nature. To its credit, “Maestro” features a fine production design and gorgeous camera work (especially in the black-and-white sequences), and Mulligan’s luminescent presence is positively captivating, in my view the only real reason for screening this offering in the first place. Otherwise, however, this is a big awards season disappointment that leaves much to be desired – and that likely would have been better off left in the hands of the project’s originally designated director, Steven Spielberg. Cooper may be a fine actor, but that’s what he should stick with, as that’s where his real strength lies – not behind the camera or sitting in the writer’s chair.