I don’t always find time to see those ‘off the beaten path’ movies and this is one of them. The story isn’t one that we encounter in real life, perhaps. I feel like most of us are happy with continuing with the status quo, pushing to a place of comfort and then coasting along, as needed. This story places an aspiring drummer, who wants to be great, against a teacher who will stop at little to push him past any sense of self to be something more, no matter the cost.
On the surface, it seems like it might be one of those feel-good movies, but with the first profanity laced tired from Fletcher to young Neiman makes it clear to the viewer that the road will be anything but smooth. The story quickly devolves into a struggle between Fletcher being almost inhuman in his attempts to push Neiman, though in the context of the story, it looks like a terrorization and little more. What makes the story come together is how Neiman begins to respond. Both he and Fletcher share the belief that to be great, you must push yourself, push yourself past any reasonable line that most of us back off from. Fletcher finds a way to, ultimately, make Neiman better, even if it looks terrible and Neiman borders on all kinds of troubling personality traits.
While I didn’t intend to spoil the movie, I do feel like the movie can connect with a wide audience. What would you risk to be great? If there could be a guarantee to be the best of this generation at something, anything, what would you be willing to give up? Neiman is faced with this quandary throughout the movie and at every chance to give up, he doesn’t, he never backs down. That dogmatic persistence makes the movie churn, more so as JK Simmons chews everything up in his wake in what is by far the best performance I’ve seen from him next to his stint as J. Jonah Jameson from the ‘original’ Spiderman movies. Miles Teller plays a quiet character, but there are a lot of little things he does that make you somehow root for him and against him for Fletcher. The entire movie set me on edge in a way I hadn’t been thrown for quite some time. This movie is one you do not want to miss.