Andrew Neyman is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his élite east coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher, an instructor equally known for his teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the school. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man’s life. Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability-and his sanity.
Director: Damien Chazelle; Writer: Damien Chazelle; Stars: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist; Runtime: 107 min; Rated: R; Genre: Drama, Music; Released: 2014-10-15
We actually went to see this a couple of weeks ago at Veteran’s 24 theater. My expectations were not too high, and I was surprised that Lay was interested at all. I was in the band in high school, a great band at that, with a tough (but nothing like the J.K. Simmons character, Terence Fletcher) band director. I just didn’t see how it could be that compelling. Boy, was I wrong. Everything about this film was stellar; casting, writing, acting, directing, music and cinematography all came together to just tell an incredible story.
Nineteen year old Andrew Nieman wants to be the greatest jazz drummer in the world, in a league with Buddy Rich. Andrew is starting his first year at Shaffer Conservatory of Music, the best music school in the United States. At Shaffer, being the best means being accepted to study under Terence Fletcher, and being asked to play in his studio band. Based on their less than positive first meeting, Andrew is surprised that Fletcher asks him to join the band, albeit in the alternate drummer position which he is more than happy to do initially. Andrew quickly learns that Fletcher operates on fear and intimidation, never settling for what he considers less than the best each and every time.
I don’t know who impressed me more Miles Teller in the lead as Andrew Nieman or Simmons playing Band teacher Terence Fletcher. Both did so great that had either been a lesser actor they would have been out shined by the other. Simmons’ character could have easily been cartoonish and 2 dimensional but Simmons gave him such depth that through the whole film I kept feeling wisps of compassion for him, and even understood his motives before he lays them out for Nieman in the third act. For a younger actor, Miles Teller, who I haven’t seen in much, played his role like a seasoned actor. His performance just wrapped me up, and to find out he did much of the drumming himself is insane. Whilst watching some of the intense scenes I felt like I was watching him be executed, and other times it feels like the fight in Rocky, you feel like you are just watching him get demolished, except all of this is emotional and not physical. Whether it is the discouragement, the social awkwardness, the single parent household, the internal conflict, the hubris, the arrogance, and at times the mental torture that he put himself through, all just blew me away. Teller had the charisma and electricity to connect to the audience.
The writing was outstanding. Often you kind of know where a movie is headed, but this movie stayed very unpredictable. Just when you think for certain how a scene or sequence of scenes will play out they take a hard left, and it keeps you off-balance (in a good way). It was so refreshing, a few times I thought the ending was near, but then something disrupts how “it should go or end”.