OBJECTIVE: Watch a popular or critically acclaimed film we’ve never seen to the halfway point. Pause it. Work together to predict the ending.
THE LAST THING WE SAW: We paused at 00:53:30, just after Andrew Neimann broke up with Nicole because he thinks that “she would stop him from being one of the greats” after Professor Fletcher gives Neimann’s seat to a new drummer.
And now… discuss!
Phil: So no joke, before we reached the halfway mark, I jotted down, “Neimann’s going to focus too much on the music for his girlfriend, Nicole. She’s not going to be happy and eventually break things off with him.” 0 for 1—this Half Flick is off to a great start.
Ben: Okay, but what’s the difference in the outcome, really? The relationship ended, Neimann was a trying-to-be-considerate-but-ultimately-callous wad, and Nicole was eleventy-million percent justified in leaving angrily. Give yourself credit for spirit as well as letter of predictions.
Phil: Yeah, but the fact that he did it was telling. It shows just how passionate/obsessed/whatever-you-want-to-call-it he is with his craft, to the point where he can’t see how heartless and unkind he is. Which brings me to my overall prediction: I’d like for this film to have Neimann re-evaluate his perspectives and realize that success is not worth being mistreated, mistreating others, and being miserable and lonely; however, I feel that this movie will ultimately end with Neimann becoming a very successful drummer, and he’ll feel that all this mean-spiritedness was worth it.
Ben: I wish I saw either of those things happening. I want them like a neglected spouse wants an orgasm, but I don’t expect any of those things to come. What leads you to believe that anyone in this film will become happy or successful? I definitely think that Neimann will persevere and attempt to reach greatness, but as far as results go, why should his methods be rewarded?
Phil: Because I feel that this film has set up this false dichotomy, that if you’re enjoying yourself, you’re not really working hard. I don’t buy this for a second, but I feel that this is what the message of the movie will be. As such, Neimann will become one of the greats, but by being unkind and by being subjected to relentless (and unnecessary) unkindness along the way.
Ben: I think you’re seeing the warning of the movie as some sort of overt lesson in how to succeed. That’s like watching Scarface and taking away a desire to sell and use coke. It’s a cautionary tale, not a how-to manual. I think the opposite: Neimann will be driven to practice more and take his drumming more seriously at the expense of alienating everyone else in his life. Then, at a critical final performance, Neimann over-exerts and irreparably injures his hand after refusing to rest and heal it properly all this time.
Phil: Wow, we are definitely seeing this movie differently! Let’s go chronologically. First, I think he will quickly earn his seat back in Fletcher’s band.
Ben: In Italy, they have an age-old saying: “no.” Neimann will not earn anything back quickly or easily. When he does get back into Fletcher’s relatively good graces, it will be by sabotaging Smiley McNewDrummer’s sheet music or equipment, or some equally dickish stunt.
Phil: Fletcher is a fickle dick, and his drummer changes with the sun’s angle to the horizon. Also, I feel that Neimann has enough integrity to do this on the up and up. He’ll probably wow the prof by doing some riff from a Charlie Parker tune, and Fletcher’ll be all, “Get back on that stool, ya fucker!”
Ben: Neimann has a twisted version of integrity, though. He emotionlessly told his cute, empathetic girlfriend that she wasn’t serious about anything in life and would become a needy distraction. If this was his version of considerate, who’s to say he won’t go full Machiavelli? Especially since he’s so willing to endure Fletcher’s beratings and manipulations for a chance at the big time.
Phil: Oh, I don’t mean integrity in terms of human interaction—he’s already put kindness and compassion secondary to “his art.” But I feel he wants to succeed through his merit, not through treacherous Frank Underwood-esque machinations. But we both agree that he will earn his seat back?
Ben: I think most reasonable people want to succeed based solely on merit, and that the most morally upstanding among us refuse to succeed by Underwooded… I mean, under-handed methods. The harsh reality is that too many people would step on a nun’s neck if it was between them and concert tickets or a $2.00 raise. And since Neimann is only becoming more ruthless, ipso facto he’ll cut a bitch with an Exacto.
Phil: Wow, we are not seeing this flick at all the same way! Next, I predict that, once Neimann is back in the band, he and Fletcher will have more fights. Neimann is starting to stand up for himself a bit more, and Fletcher, while not backing down, was relatively calm.
Ben: These weren’t words I was prepared to use in this article, but I agree with you about that part. Neimann is less afraid of Fletcher as time passes, and Fletcher’s motivation is that he really does want Neimann to succeed (or, most pessimistically, Fletcher wants to succeed and is using Neimann to that end). I wonder if Fletcher knows how much he’s hurting his students. Prediction: nope.
Phil: Back to these words: I disagree. I don’t think Fletcher gives a solitary damn about Neimann, nor anybody for that matter. He cares about success and perfection. So I agree that if Fletcher puts Neimann in the band, it’s for his own gain. On this point, I also agree with you that Fletcher is completely unaware that he is harmful to his students. Anyway, during these fights, Fletcher will reveal something more about himself to our intrepid drummer and we’ll discover why he is such a hard-nosed bastard toward everyone.
Ben: Is it bad that I didn’t even bother to wonder about Fletcher’s motivations? That I just accepted his role as a bastard-colored bastard and didn’t see a need to delve deeper? I guess careers in sales and politics will do that to a guy. Okay, so, gun to my head, if I’m forced to predict why Fletcher sucks all the dicks, it’s because he was a failed artist who was persecuted for being an outcast.
Phil: Oh, wow, I hadn’t thought of that. Mine is that he is so damned good at music that he fails to understand how others can be less than perfect. He seems to have exceptional perfect pitch and perfect tempo. Because of this, he lacks the perspective to comprehend how anybody else can not perceive music this fanatically. Mix this with his fervent passion for music and you get one ruthless son of a bitch. As a result he has alienated everyone who meets him—not that he minds: “this sort of suffering is what makes you a success,” he, and this movie, are concluding.
Ben: Again, I think that’s the character’s message, not the movie’s.
Phil: We’ll see. The only other thing I predict is this: while we disagree whether Neimann will get his seat back easily or not, I think he’ll have a tough time during at least one of the upcoming competitions. In fact, he’ll blunder so badly that he’ll be out for good.
Ben: Up until this point, I agree. It’s just that you think he’ll make a mistake, and I think he’ll earn himself a spot on the disabled list by injuring his nasty-ass, probably infected drummin’ hand.
Phil: This movie is all about perfection and success at any cost, and I think Fletcher will come down hard on him for making up some riff that the audience loves during a competition, but is not in Fletcher’s ideal perfect chart. Neimann’s slip-up will be that he has become too big for his britches, much to Fletcher’s rage, but will launch him to success anyway.
Ben: A big, barely talented baby is halfway decent at something and tries to become amazing at it, but has growing pains and pisses someone off along the way? We’ve seen that before, so I’d buy it coming from another movie. Just not this one.
Phil: What happened in our pasts that has caused us to perceive this film from such different angles? As much as I have been disliking it for its apparent misanthropy, I am now quite intrigued by its ability to bring out our thoughts and interpretations of the world. Like some film-based Rorschach test.
Ben: As far as what happened in our pasts? I guess I can relate to Neimann, but instead of caving to the pressures of my competitive Northeast school and high-expectation family, I said, “screw that noise” and took a sharp left onto Honey Badger Lane. And as a guy who works in Human Resources, I’m constantly expecting the worst from people and laughing at everyone for their mistakes. I can say for sure that this sort of laser-focused humorless study-mongering is rather played out, even in circles at schools like these.
Phil: Interesting. And I am finding all the mean-spiritedness and animosity simply tiring and unnecessary. Well, I say that Neimann will weather the storm that is Fletcher’s tirade, and he’ll self-assuredly go off and become a success (although a lonely one), in part due to all these brutal scenes with his professor.
Ben: Nah. He’ll be too busy hating himself for that.
AND NOW WE FINISH THE MOVIE: