Sunday, May 17, 2015

Drummer Boy

Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist
Released: October 10, 2014

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to Birdman)
Best Supporting Actor - J.K. Simmons (won)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Damien Chazelle (lost to Graham Moore for The Imitation Game)
Best Film Editing (won)
Best Sound Mixing (won)

Think of the music teacher in Mr. Holland's Opus (whose name was Mr. Holland, coincidently!) and just take the complete antithesis of him and you have Terrance Fletcher, the music teacher in Whiplash. Played by J.K. Simmons (who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar this year), Fletcher is the intense conductor of a jazz band at the competitive music school, Shaffer Conservatory, where nineteen-year-old Andrew (Miles Teller) is a first-year student. Fletcher sees Andrew drumming one night for practice and invites him to his class the next morning. Andrew knows who Terrance Fletcher is and is very excited and honored at the prospect of getting to work with him, although when he first sits in during his class, I'm sure he has a change of tune...pun intended! While observing the class, Andrew quickly realizes Fletcher is a huge jerk. Someone's instrument was out of tune and he told them that this person better speak up so they can stop wasting everyone's time, but nobody says anything. He starts attacking this overweight, timid student and makes snarky comments about his weight and asks him if his instrument is out of tune to which the student says yes and Fletcher makes him leave the class. Just as I suspected, that student did not have the out of tune instrument but Fletcher said it makes it worse that he didn't even know.

He is brutal to Andrew when it's his turn to show Fletcher what he's got. He is either too slow or too fast for Fletcher's liking and never seems to get the exact beat he is looking for. I gained a lot of respect for drummers after watching this movie - apparently, it's a lot more difficult than I thought! I thought Andrew was doing a good job, but since Fletcher picks up a chair and throws it at him, I guess not! I did laugh when he asks Andrew, "Do you know why I just threw a chair at you?" Sheesh, somebody needs to watch Mr. Holland's Opus to learn how to be a music teacher! But let's be honest, this movie was way more entertaining than that one!

Andrew eventually gets the rhythm right and he is invited to join in at a local jazz competition, but only as an alternate in case the other drummer can't do it which is what happens when Andrew loses the sheet music (Fletcher gets mad at the other boy who gave it to Andrew as it was his responsibility to make sure nothing happened to it) and has to play since the other boy doesn't know the music by heart and Andrew informs Fletcher that he has Whiplash, the name of the piece, memorized and can fill in. Even though Andrew saved the day and even though their jazz band won first prize, Andrew does not become the core drummer like he thought he would and instead Fletcher invites the redheaded kid from Andrew's entry-level class (who I thought was one of the Scavo twins from Desperate Housewives, but he's not) to try out and he is given the spot of core drummer. Andrew is outraged by this and Fletcher agrees to let him be the core drummer at the next competition after both boys have auditioned for hours well into the early hours of the morning. However, on the day of the competition, his bus brakes down and Andrew has to rent a car. He forgets his drum sticks at the rent a car place and is rushing to get back to the auditorium because he only has a few minutes left and his car is hit by a truck and flips over! Who didn't see that coming? Even though he should have been dead, or at the very least, critically injured, he runs across the lawn with blood pouring down his head and makes it with seconds to spare. Needless to say, the performance does not go well and he is suspended from the class.

To be able to concentrate more on becoming the best drummer of his generation, he breaks up with his girlfriend, Nicole (played by Melissa Benoist who played Marley on Glee) who he had recently met and asked out. Needless to say Nicole is pretty angry about this and even though when Andrew realizes he may have made a huge mistake and later invites her to attend one of his shows, she says she might be busy with her boyfriend. Ooh, burn. But good for her for moving on. Andrew was a total jerk to her.

The movie ends with Fletcher trying to get back at Andrew and humiliates him in a crowd of people when he is fired from his job after a student has made a report on what an abusive and horrible teacher Fletcher was, but it turns out Andrew gains his respect with a drum solo that goes on forever. I mean, it was really REALY impressive, but if I had been in that audience, I would have been like, damn, is this kid ever going to stop drumming? Great movie; I highly recommend it.

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