Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is a first year jazz drumming student at Shaffer Conservatory of Music in New York City. As the film opens, Andrew is waiting to audition for the schools most prestigious band, directed by the mysterious Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). When Fletcher leaves without a word, Andrew assumes he has failed. Later Fletcher comes to an ensemble practice that Andrew is at, telling him to report the next day for practice with the schools studio band.
As the movie progresses, we see that Fletcher is a madman, regularly berating his players, screaming at them, and occasionally throwing things at them when they make a mistake. He makes Andrew cry, striking him because he cannot play in the correct tempo. Through all of this Andrew practices more and more and strives to be better. He stops dating the girl he met at the movie theater, he becomes reclusive to his practice space, he begins to suffer from horrible injuries on his hands which he treats with ice baths.
With being the best the only thing that matters, Andrew begins to unravel. He is late for a performance and forgets his drum sticks. When he is threatened with replaced as core drummer, he lashes out saying that it is his drum kit and they will have to wait for him to play the show. Andrew leaves the show to find his drumsticks and on the way back, is in a terrible car accident. He leaves the scene of the accident, bleeding and breathing heavily and runs onto the stage. He begins to play but cannot because of his injuries. When Fletcher tells Andrew that he is finished, Andrew snaps, kicking the drums out of the way and tackling Fletcher to the ground.
We see that Andrew has dropped out of school. His father and lawyer argue for him to anonymously report Fletcher for his abusive behavior, saying that Fletcher has done this to others and with do so again. Andrew complies and Fletcher kicked out of the school.
After seeing Fletcher performing at a jazz club, Andrew and Fletcher sit and talk over drinks. Fletcher explains that his purpose at the conservatory was to find the next legend. His belief is that the only way to find this is to push people, saying “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.” He also says that he believed Andrew was what he was looking for but he was wrong. Fletcher invites Andrew to play drums in a band he formed. Andrew agrees and seems to be happy to get back to drumming.
At the performance Fletcher announces the song the band will begin with. It is a song Andrew has never heard or seen before. They begin and Andrew stumbles through, eventually stopping all together when Fletcher comes close to the kit and explains that he knew it was Andrew who made the complaint that got him kicked out of the conservatory. Andrew gets up and leaves the stage, walking into his father’s arms. He waits a moment and then turns around, seeming to have an idea. He walks back onstage and begins playing as Fletcher is at the microphone speaking to the crowd.
Andrew plays perfectly, soloing and then going into renditions of songs that he previously played in the film and then soloing again. Fletcher, seeing the masterpiece that is unfolding, begins to get excited, throwing his jacket off and signaling to the band when to come in and when to stop. Andrew beings to slow down and Fletcher asks him what he is doing, being that Andrew has already played perfectly. Andrew simply replies “Ill cue you in.” Fletcher nods with excitement and Andrew slowly builds to a crescendo of drumming and as he finally comes to the end and goes to hit the final note, the screen goes to black.
Thanks Greg C!