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A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student's potential.

This movie is a depiction of the contentious relationship between a jazz drumming student and his abusive instructor. Along the way, the student’s relationship with both his father and girlfriend are explored within the context of the pressure he deals with during his instruction. The film’s director and writer based the story on his own experiences in his New Jersey high school band, and is the type of highly acclaimed, low-budget film that has come to symbolize those who subscribe to Netflix in search of films they may have missed.

New York’s Shafer Conservatory welcomes a first-year jazz student named Andrew Nieman, who has been playing drums for much of his young life. He possesses a drive to be the best, but soon finds that reaching that level of ability comes at a price. That’s because the conductor of a studio band at the Conservatory, Terence Fletcher, agrees to bring him in as another option at drums. Nieman finds out immediately that Fletcher is an incredibly demanding instructor who has no problem humiliating students if they fail to attain what he feels is their potential. While the band plays an integral song, Nieman is unable to keep tempo, which causes Fletcher to not only throw a chair at him, but also slap him in front of the class. That drives Nieman to practice to a point that results in a romantic breakup. He becomes core dummer after misplacing the regular’s sheet music, but doesn’t last long. After an audition between Nieman and the two other core drummers, he is given the position.

However, Nieman arrives late to a competition after being forced to rent a car, then finds he’s forgotten his drumsticks. After retrieving them, he drives back, but is injured in an accident. Attempting to play drums while in great pain, his efforts result in Fletcher stopping the performance and telling him he’s finished, words that cause him to attack Fletcher on stage. He’s expelled from the Conservatory just days later and soon meets with a lawyer for a former student of Fletcher’s who committed suicide after battling depression. The former student’s parents want Fletcher fired, and after Nieman testifies, Fletcher is dismissed. After the passage of a period of time, Nieman enters a club where Fletcher happens to be performing. During a break, the two former rivals talk over drinks, with Fletcher explaining that his methods are meant to make sure that each of his students reaches their full potential and eventual greatness. The animosity between the two has subsided, with Fletcher offering an invitation for Nieman to play at a festival concert. Excited over the new opportunity, Nieman attempts to get back together with his former girlfriend, but she has moved on and turns him down. More trouble awaits him as Fletcher indicates while the two are on the festival stage that he’s aware that Nieman testified against him. That conflict ultimately leads to a dramatic conclusion involving the two individuals.

The budget for the 106-minute film was just $3.3 million, but it has grossed just under $18 million since its October 10, 2014 release. It was financed by Bold Films in conjunction with Sony Pictures Classics, and was filmed over just 19 days in the Los Angeles area—though the film is set in New York City. The film won three Academy Awards for Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing and Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons’ portrayal of the intense Fletcher. It was released on Netflix two days after those awards were given.


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