Written and directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser
Andrew Neimann (Teller) is a promising young drummer competing for a spot in a prestigious music conservatory band. The band is led by Terence Fletcher (Simmons), a demanding and volatile conductor. As Fletcher pushes Andrew to the breaking point, he begins to reveal his true potential.
This intense drama was written and directed by Damien Chazelle (Grand Piano). Chazelle based this on his own experiences in a competitive jazz program. The film stars Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now), J.K. Simmons (Harsh Times), Melissa Benoist (Tennessee), and Paul Reiser (Aliens). The film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.
This story is based around Damien Chazelle’s own experiences in a competitive jazz program. He does acknowledge that this goes to extremes that are far beyond anything he experiences. He earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for his work. The story is a great combination of coming-of-age and pure intense drama. The film works through great visuals and unspoken emotion that play powerfully from the very beginning. The dialogue seems to play two different roles. It either relaxes the mood or drives the intensity through the roof. There is very little time spent on anything ordinary in this one. This story packs a major punch and seems to find only the most important notes along the way.
The acting brings out the best from this story. Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons have an intense on-screen chemistry that is riveting. For Teller, the emotional ride his character goes on is played perfectly. For Simmons, this was a chance to bring out something that goes beyond intensity. Chazelle told Simmons “I don’t want to see a human being on-screen anymore. I want to see a monster, a gargoyle, an animal.” He got what he asked for, and Simmons got a Best Supporting Actor nod. The two of them bring out something special in this film.
Melissa Benoist and Paul Reiser also do good work in this one. For Benoist, the role called for a simple performance that underscores the reality of the situation. She does nice work bringing that out of the part. Reiser does a nice job playing a role that balances out some of the emotion in this film. The cast also featured a number of real musicians who bring the movie to life. Overall, great acting.
The visuals in this movie are wonderful. Cinematographer Sharone Meir (Mean Creek) uses the camera to bring out something special from the sets and locations used. Editing also plays a huge role in the success of this movie. Tom Cross (We Own the Night) managed to cut this film in a way that keeps the pressure building and the intensity intact. He also earned an Oscar nomination for his work on this one. Add in so many other great aspects, and this is a visually impressive film. The sound also plays a major role. In a film about jazz, there is a need for richness in the music and the sound work overall. This one earned a fifth Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Mixing. Overall, the technical aspects of production seem to compliment the acting and writing in every way.
This is a film that pays off perfectly. It’s definitely one of the top films of 2014. If you’re a fan of the stars this is a must-see film. I would also suggest this to anyone who loves great drama and intense storytelling. This is also a good one for fans of jazz. The music is wonderful, and pushes this movie into a higher level. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.