Directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons and Paul Reiser
I've never been a fan of jazz, so why would I want to watch Whiplash? The movie deals with a young man's passion for drumming and his ambition is to be the next Buddy Rich. To answer my own question, I wanted to see J.K. Simmons in his Oscar-winning role.
I've been a fan of Simmons since I saw his humorous cameo in Burn After Reading. He has the ability to make us forget that he's acting. Do you remember him as Juno's father, or as a fired worker in Up in the Air? I once decided that if I ever became an established writer of screenplays, I would write something that featured Simmons so that he could showcase all of his talent. Damien Chazelle has beaten me to it.
It's common to idolize people in our lives, whether it's in the sporting world, music, or whatever your individual interests happen to be. But Peyton Manning didn't just become great; he dedicated himself to the game and worked to connect with his teammates. While Jimi Hendrix had perhaps the most instinctive musical talent, he probably worked like crazy to develop his ability.
Whiplash is essentially about the struggle for greatness.
Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) doesn't seem to care about making friends or maintaining social relationships of any kind. He believes that they are merely distractions which take him away from time he could spend perfecting his drum playing. We see Neiman at Shaffer, which has the reputation of being the best music school in the US.
Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) teaches at Shaffer, and seems to spend most of his time terrorizing his students. His style is reminiscent of a Sergeant Major, making most students afraid of him and unable to look him in the eye. But it would be a mistake to pigeon hole Fletcher because his character is multifaceted and impossible to consistently predict. One minute he's shouting into someone's face, and then he'll shed a tear or say something surprisingly encouraging. His motivation is to discover the next great jazz musician, but his methods are unorthodox and extreme.
As the story unfolds, we watch Neiman try to impress Fletcher. His drumming is just a small part of the equation; Fletcher wants to see Neiman stand up to him and overcome adversity, believing that such qualities are a vital part of the mix in any truly great musician.
I won't give away any more of the story, but I should say that Neiman's journey isn't the smoothest. We are left guessing right up until the final scene (and perhaps beyond) about Fletcher's true motivations and whether Neiman will succeed. I would have to say that it's one of the best movie-endings I have ever witnessed.
I watched Whiplash for the first time just 20 hours ago with two friends who had no interest in the subject matter. We all loved the story. I'm struggling to stop myself from seeing it again tonight. Be prepared for a lot of foul language and an intense experience. It's a unique movie with excellent performances. I hope that you give it a chance.
Overall score 5/5
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