Let me preface this by saying I know little to nothing about music. I can’t play an instrument. I don’t know how to read sheet music. I only have a vague idea of what tempo is. Still, I was able to appreciate the depth of this movie. Maybe not to the full extent that a drummer might have. But it was still impactful. I loved the music, don’t get me wrong, and the drumbeats are still resonating in my head. But. the music was ultimately just a backdrop for an oft repeated story of someone giving something their all, losing much, and gaining more.
Andrew is a drummer at the best music school in the country that gets chosen for the highest performing band within the school, but that is only the beginning. Just to survive in that band he puts in a ridiculous amount of effort into it to the point he has to abandon thoughts of everything else. He has no friends. He breaks up with girlfriend over it. He has a tremendous ego and blatantly looks down on others because of it. He uses ice water to numb the pain and wash the blood that accumulates on his hands from drumming too long and hard. He is completely and totally obsessed. At one point, he gets into a car crash, but still forces himself to perform, which he does badly, at which point the conductor tells him that he was done, essentially meaning to get the hell out of his band. The conductor Fletcher is the other pole of this incredibly polarized story. He serves as a mentor to Andrew, but in a far more aggressive manor than anything I have ever seen before. He intentionally inflicts emotional and mental harm to the greatest degree possible trying to motivate Andrew. It doesn’t even seem like mentoring. He just seems insane. For the most part everyone, including Andrew, is downright terrified of him. And fully justifiably. Sometimes he acts downright brutal. The last act is him trying to embarrass Andrew and completely ruin any career he could have in music, trying to make it seem like he was getting his revenge for an earlier conflict, at least that’s what it seems like. And Andrew originally runs away, but comes back, and takes Fletcher head on, at which point he responds more positively to him than he had at any point in the movie. Thus, I believe he was intentionally making himself out to be the villain, pushing Andrew as far as he could, past the breaking point, but always giving him some sort of reason to come back, which in that case was not willing to let Fletcher win. In this instance Andrew took up the reigns, completely ignored what Fletcher had told him, which had never occurred before due to the power and fear that Fletcher wielded and went beyond anything he had done before. He matched Fletcher completely as an equal, he acknowledged it, and they connected. Ultimately, Fletcher was simply just far more obsessed with creating one of the greats than Andrew was in becoming one of the greats. Fletcher intentionally ignored all the laws of human interaction and decency and grinded away at Andrew and his peers humanity, leaving them no other options other than to either drop out of music entirely, or face hell and continue to become musicians. Many of his peers dropped out. Andrew comes very close to dropping out, but discovers that he has nothing else left. He had already thrown away everything trying to keep up with Fletcher, and thus even after becoming a train wreck and being thrown away, he still comes back for the slightest hope. Even after that being shattered as well, he still comes back, at which point both he and Fletcher know he’s made it, and it ends.
Movies like this are always a mixed bag of emotions for me. I very strongly admire and appreciate people who put their all into something well beyond what would be deemed acceptable and enjoy watching them struggle but ultimately achieve great things. However, this also depresses me, because I have never had anything close to that level of passion despite wanting to. Nothing has ever clicked with me in such a way that I have felt that I wanted to be greater at it than anyone. That I wanted to go far and do great things with. So far I have been living a pretty sub par existence and been satisfied with it. But things like this make me wish I had found something that had given me more. I want something to obsess over. At these times I don’t even particularly care what it is. But I just haven’t felt that for anything so far, and without feeling it, one can’t just fake it till they make it so to speak. I’ve tried on numerous occasions. Maybe I just don’t have that type of personality. Maybe I’m just not cut out for it. Maybe I should just be happy with what I’ve got. But in the end, I still wish I had more.