They say the best teacher you ever have is the one which pushes you the hardest, to the point of hating them, and this is one drum student’s story with the teacher from hell.
Trigger Warning(s): Homophobic Remarks, Among Other Emotionally Abusive Comments
Review (with Spoilers) – Below
Characters & Story
Within the halls of Shafer Conservatory, there is the one teacher everyone wants to impress, Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). A man who will berate you, throw chairs at you, and not purely out of malice, but because he wants beyond what you think is your best. Enter Andrew (Miles Teller). A young man who grew up without his mother, is the black sheep of his family, and is looking to be one of the greats, and not just great. However, when a young man with talent and ambition meets with a man who will use his mother leaving him as a means to push him to be better, will he break and leave, or take the punch in the stomach and keep playing despite coughing up blood?
For me, finding a movie which makes me cry isn’t hard because all you need is sympathetic characters, good actors, and a good amount of loss. However, a film making you feel energized to the point you feel the need to run a mile, do a back flip, or really pursue your passion until you are pushing yourself past human limits, that is rare. Making this film something special.
To begin, I did not expect a thing out of Teller, especially since all the big award shows don’t mention him. However, being that I’m now 5 movies in with this dude, I must admit I was left a bit shocked by his performance as Andrew. For while he doesn’t present the type of character which makes you forget you are seeing Teller on the screen, he pushes past whatever box you may have him in, due to past movies, and shows that if he wants to, and is given a chance, he can be more than a young man put in some YA novel adaptation, or in some YA comedy. He can perform with the best of them and is deserving of the same respect as his co-stars.
Leading to the man who could win a Golden Globe tonight, Mr. J.K. Simmons. This man, arguably, pushes Teller, and his character, to the point where when Teller tackles Simmons in the film, for a moment you forget this is staged. In comparison, it is like watching WWF/E when you were a kid, before you learned it was fake, and watching an up and coming wrestler put on quite the fight with a legend, and the up and comer winning and you being unable to be mad about it. Though all up to that final battle, you see the legend play mind games and use their experience to the point you fully see them all but ready to devour this punk who dares challenge them. And oh, when Fletcher goes after Andrew, it is hard to not be a little awe-struck. If only because, while J.K. Simmons has been acting since the 90s, the role I remember him as is Juno’s dad in Juno. So to see him as this methodic, almost possessed teacher/ conductor who puts his students through such hell they refuse to look him in the eye, it’s quite mesmerizing. To the point that I would find it a damn shame if he loses any nomination he is given.
Perhaps the one sole thing which didn’t click strongly with me is the character Nicole (Melissa Benoist). If only because it ended almost as soon as it began and, admittedly, I found myself quickly attached to the idea of Nicole and Andrew. So it being a storyline which came and went without fanfare almost made me wonder why it existed in the first place? For I won’t lie, this film can on occasion feel a little long, even with the intense scenes Simmons brings to the film. So with Nicole’s place not fully being developed, outside of a love interest Andrew wouldn’t have time for, I do sort of feel she could have been cut without issue. Saving the film 5-10 minutes, if that.
Overall: Worth Seeing
Honestly, between Teller and Simmons, I don’t know how you could not leave this movie a bit stressed out, yet pumped. For really, this movie doesn’t have any serious road bumps. For even if you factor in the Nicole thing, honestly you could easily argue that was Andrew showing us he would sacrifice his emotional happiness, and the possibility of sex, just to be a better drummer. And the passion isn’t just something seen on paper. With every drop of blood and sweat, Teller shows he means business. Then with Simmons, with every curse word, object thrown, or even this one vindictive move he pulls, you can see it is all to test and push Andrew past what he may think his limits are. Ultimately making the first movie I’m going to recommend in 2015. For while I may not desire to watch this again anytime soon, it is only because seeing these two go at it would make me feel very lazy in terms of what I would like to do as a career, versus what I do now as a job.