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This is a quick review of the newly released film Thanksgiving. Keep in mind this is but one of the many movies I watch every year, and that whatever initial grade I come up for this film could change for better or worse with time. To better keep up to date with both my thoughts on other movies and if my feelings on this film changed, follow me on Letterboxd.
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Via Letterboxd: A portrait of Leonard Bernstein’s singular charisma and passion for music as he rose to fame as America’s first native born, world-renowned conductor - all along following his ambition to compose both symphonic and popular Broadway works.
Originally I was going to wait for Thursday or Friday to write up the coming Thanksgiving horror film as my written review for the week. But after not doing so for Oppenheimer or Poor Things and both of those films are currently in my Top 5 of the year, I couldn’t pass up the chance to lavish some praise for a new entry into that upper echelon for film in 2023 for me - Maestro.
The second directorial feature for Actor/Director Bradley Cooper, this film has been marketed by some as a biopic on fame conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein (With Cooper himself playing the subject), but it is in fact about the marriage between him and wife Felicia Montealegre Bernstein (Played by Carey Mulligan). And unlike 2014’s The Theory Of Everything which was a film that tried to do something similar with Stephen Hawking’s first marriage but felt hollow to me, this is a true-life love story that spans decades and deserves such a treatment.
As most who read this will know by now this has been a trying year for me personally because of a trial separation I’m going through - all of which I’ve written about before. Some films this year have become triggering in a negative light to me in how they’ve handled the pitfalls of relationships but this one did the exact opposite. As a hopeless romantic myself watching this romantic partnership play out onscreen through the exciting whirlwind of courtship, the happiness of establishing a marriage, the testing of the partnership through pitfalls created by life and errors made by the partners, and the eventual finale of “Til’ Death Do Us Part.” This touched me in a way that when the studio asked for comment, I found myself choking back tears recalling what I just watched before rushing to the bathroom to compose myself. Its a beautiful love story that is all true and it doesn’t hold back from the ugly and rocky paths love can be tested by.
From an acting standpoint Cooper and Mulligan give what could be argued are the performances of the year in leading roles. Its going to be tough to pry these two as my personal choices for the prize when I turn in my ballot to both of the critics groups I currently vote in. The supporting roles don’t get much screen time but they’re al executed well by its ensemble.
The direction of this film is stunning. Cooper has clearly up his game with some of the choices he makes here with the camera work, blocking, and transitions. And that’s not accounting for the amazing cinematography and use of costumes and production design.
The story structure and how Cooper chose to present the story was impressive to see unfold as well. The first act is an exciting fifties old-Hollywood romance with all the glitz and glam, the second act is a revealing sixties drama, and the third a heart wrenching and yet bittersweet finale.
I love me a well-done biopic. I love me romantic stories about true love. I love me some old Hollywood and well done dramas. Maestro features it all and is the first film since Oppenheimer to get the rare A+ initial grade from me. This movie moved me and hit me on such a personal level. It gave me hope true unconditional love that survives challenges exists in such a cold, dark, and cynical world. Cooper has really given us a master class in filmmaking with this one.
Maestro releases to limited theatres next week on the 22nd and arrives a month after that on Netflix.