The new Leonard Bernstein movie Maestro made it to Netflix this week, where I finally watched it in lieu of a trip to the theater. The film centers on the relationship between Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) and his wife Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan). Directed by Cooper, based on a screenplay he cowrote with Josh singer, Maestro has already been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards. 

The film opens with Leonard at 70, being filmed and interviewed at home, while playing a modern classical piano composition while still grieving and reminiscing about his dead wife, missing her « terribly. » Flashing back to 1943, and black-and-white, a 25-year-old Bernstein makes his successfully dramatic debut as the Philharmonic’s substitute conductor. Although then in a relationship with clarinetist David Oppenheim (Fellow Tavelers’ Matt Bomer), Felicia  his homosexuality is diverted, when he meets Felicia, an aspiring actress. whom courts and eventually marries, and the two have three children.

The film walks us through Bernstein’s marriage and complicated personal and sexual life, paralleling his successful professional career as a conductor and composer. The black-and-white filming for the earlier years (along with the omnipresent smoking throughout the film) capture the period, prior to the film’s sudden transition to color in the later years.

Bernstein’s career contuse to flourish fantastically against the background of a seemingly idyllic and prosperous existence, although his double-life does catch up with him. The tension explodes one drunken Thanksgiving, when Felicia calls out « the hate in your heart » and warns  « you’re going to die a lonely old queen. »

The genuine love between them, however, survives and is highlighted by her final illness and death in 1978.  Meanwhile, Bernstein continues his behavior – and his musical triumphs. (And, of course, one of the highlights of the movie is the bits and pieces of his music we get to hear.)