Flawed masterpiece

Bradley Cooper, an actor who has moved with some success to writing and directing, proves with this warts-and-all biopic on composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein that his recent remake of A Star Is Born was not a fluke.

The wisest decision Cooper made was to tell the man’s story through the eyes of his wife Felicia (Carey Mulligan). She was his rock, aware of all his angels and demons, his volatility and childlike egotism, and acted as a beard of sorts for his closeted homosexuality. Mulligan gives the film its emotional punch, and well deserves top billing.

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer movies about musical legends to tell me more about, well, the music, and less about the melodramatic warts. Bernstein’s performances shine in only two places, his 1943 debut with the New York Philharmonic and his thrilling, athletic rendition of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” in Ely Cathedral. You will likely see these money shots in the trailers. Note: since this is being released mainly on Netflix, please please please stream it through a decent sound system.

Bottom line, this is a complex, meticulously crafted picture. The acting, makeup, period detail, direction and camerawork are flawless. It’s dazzling, funny and heartbreaking. I see a string of Oscar noms. But the greatest movies are the ones that make you forget you’re watching a movie, and that doesn’t happen here. (129 min)