“Maestro” — 5 Things I Loved/Learned

Adrian Todd Zuniga
4 min readDec 19, 2023


Bradley Cooper wowed me with A Star Is Born, but MAESTRO shows he’s a big-time director. This film ticked every single box for me from stand-up-and-cheer to jittering discomfort to tears streaming down my face. It’s a beautiful film and I learned things that’ll influence my writing for the foreseeable, and I loved even more.

LEARNED: The Flirting!

It’s a joy to watch people hardcore flirt, and Maestro brings the same sort of exuberant, A-grade courtship as A Star is Born. Remember Cooper and Lady Gaga outside the grocery store? With the peas!?

Here we get Cooper and Carey Mulligan in an empty theatre play-acting. Swoon. The writing lesson: when people are excited by someone, it spurs a daring and limitlessness because anything feels possible. Because flirting isn’t just a high-speed dance, it’s a test to see if the other person can keep up.

Co-writer Josh Singer (First Man; Spotlight) and Cooper have written flirtations that are buoyant and free, a white-hot beginning that makes the complications that lie in wait all the more brutal to witness.

A++++ flirting. These people are going to be in love

LOVED: Old Meets New

When Cooper introduces his new belle (Mulligan) to his old (current?) beau, Matt Bomer, it crackles. Introducing a new lover to an old one is a tension slam-dunk, but the acting here is what won me. Cooper’s display of naivete, Bomer’s quiet hurt, Mulligan’s cluelessness. Oof, this is such a small, great scene.

LEARNED: Let Us Hurt When the Characters Hurt

There are three pivotal scenes in Maestro that Cooper was in no rush to cut, each of them stunning, and each of them a prime lesson in direction:

1. when he TOLD THE TRUTH about his father
2. when he LIED to his daughter
3. when his wife TOLD THE TRUTH about him

The first is within the flirting. After Cooper/Mulligan slept together, he tells a devastating story about his dad without his tone changing. When he was done speaking, the camera held and…



Adrian Todd Zuniga

is an award-nominated author (Collision Theory), award-winning director/screenwriter (HOLD ME, DON'T TOUCH ME) and the creator and host of Literary Death Match.