Warning: spoilers ahead
I’ve heard this movie receive a lot of noteworthy praise and buzz about as long as it’s been released to the public. Unfortunately it wasn’t until recently that I saw this film for myself. If I could sum it up in one word, I guess it would be “wow.”
I find this movie to have a lot of depth and the characters to have, well, character.
Let’s start with Andrew Neiman. A freshman at Shaffer Music Conservatory, “the best music school in the world.” Andrew is struggling to make his mark at school. He is a freshman first year. The movie spans over one semester of his freshman year in college. His talents are later discovered by Terrence Fletcher, a teacher who rules with an iron fist who leads a band full of the most talented and brightest.
Andrew is so determined to make his mark and impress his teacher that he sacrifices everything. Literally everything. His relationship with a girl he liked, his relationship with his family, his sanity and his health. Many times he is brought to the breaking point, if not by Fletcher then by his own pursuit and his unrelenting ambition.
Putting literal blood, sweat and tears into his craft we later see the fallout that happens between him and his teacher after a failed performance. This results in Andrew leaving Shaffer and Fletcher getting fired.
Andrew is utterly broken. He’s lost everything, the girl, his shot, and the school of his dreams. In one scene we can see him watching a video of him playing drums as a boy as he weeps tears while smiling. To me this means that he is looking back on when music was about having fun. To him now it was all a competition to be the very best at the risk of everything.
They later reconvene at a low-key jazz nightclub and Andrew agrees to do one last performance. Fletcher purposely deceives Andrew the moment he steps on stage. They play an entirely different number then the ones Fletcher said they would play. Now Andrew is looking like a fool, this was Fletcher’s way of saying “fuck you.”
Utterly embarrassed and without much he can do about it, Andrew storms off stage only to come back moments later. He completely takes the reigns of the band and leads them in song. This is Andrew’s “fuck you,” but to me more than anything it shows how much power Fletcher still had over him. Fletcher is not amused, until Neiman breaks out into a solo that lasts several minutes. Then the movie cuts at the end and we don’t get to see what happens next between them.
To me this was a perfect way to end it because it leaves you to come up with your own ending. How do you think things ended for Andrew? Hopefully well.
If anything this movie speaks volumes to anyone who specializes in any sort of craft, particularly an artistic one. What is more important? The soul of your work or trying to be so perfect so that you will gain respect and be admired as a result?
We can see a lot of Andrew’s ambition in the way he talks. He breaks things off with a girl because she will get in his way. He wants to be remembered. He will not settle for mediocrity or even good enough. Maybe that is why Fletcher took him on as a student. Searching desperately for his Charlie Parker. Maybe Fletcher wants to realize his own dreams through a student and is willing to do anything to get it.
I think this film is very good and musicians should see it. Not only musicians but anyone who has a creative craft that they may be struggling with or don’t know where they stand on it.
My rating is 4.5/5