Hey, remember the major motion picture "Black Swan"? If you enjoyed that movie as a Psychological Drama, or as a Horror movie—but not as, uh, a Comedy, as some have—then you will appreciate this film starring J.K. Simmons, who you might remember from such roles as that of a folksy Midwest insurance salesman on recent teevee commercials, a Police Psychologist on one of the "Law & Order" flavors, or as a terrifyingly manipulative neo-Nazi in "Oz." This time, he's in the role of Fletcher, a no-bullshit music professor at what the movie tells us is the finest music school in the country, or at least that's what Andrew (Miles Teller), our young college freshman hero, says, as he defends himself against his sports-achiever relatives for going to college to play the hot jazz drums.
Miles Teller (“Project X,” “The Spectacular Now”) is well-cast to be not particularly liked in this movie. He’s a little sweaty, a little doughy, he looks uncool and schlubby compared to the hep cats in the band, and while we can see he knows he has a lot to learn, and he has the fire to want to be the best, he also has a tremendous attitude of entitlement as far as his place among his fellow students. All of this puts him in a perfect position to interact with Fletcher, a driven, established professional who holds his entire orchestra to impossibly high standards and controls their every move in the studio, down to where their eyes are looking.
Fletcher motivates Andrew in a military manner, like a musical “Full Metal Jacket,” using his position of power and authority to break the young student down to an egoless vessel, to be energized and filled. This does not go smoothly, and we find the entertainment in watching Fletcher and Andrew in their master and disciple roles, which take sort of predictable movie twists and turns before the storyline mutates into a pitched battle of wills, a seemingly nonsexual journey of discipline, sadism, masochism, subjugation, resistance, and obedience, climaxing in a violent musical sequence that will raise your blood pressure and give you a glimpse of how power can be exchanged and how music can consume its performers.