Director: Damien Chazelle; Main Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist;
Andrew Neimann (Teller) is a young musician, attending a prestigious music school and dreaming of nothing else but to become a great jazz drummer. As he strives for perfection, he meets Terence Fletcher (Simmons), revered teacher and leader of the best band in the school. It seems an encounter without consequences but it changes Andrew’s life, when it’s clear that Fletcher wants him in his band. It begins then a battle of wills, Fletcher always pushes his musicians beyond their limits but he takes a particular interested in Andrew and, at times, it seems that perfectionism becomes sadism. Andrew, on his part, is so absorbed by his quest for greatness that he’s ready to accept the abuses, disregarding his father’s (Reiser) concerns and discarding a budding relationship with Nicole (Benoist), a sweet girl from another college. The plot is very simple but both Simmons and Teller really sell this story of a match made in dysfunctional heaven, of driving someone to the edge: being another person or oneself. The “no pain, no gain” mantra that is the leitmotif of so many films about artists or athletes, reaches a whole new level here, turning what I always regarded as a fun, harmless thing, a drum set, into an instrument of torture both psychological and physical. I bet Darren Aronofsky, the master of cinematic obsessive behaviour, would approve and Sigmund Freud would have a field day. After yet another extreme event (showing up cover in blood and with a probable concussion to a concert) Andrew is forced by his father (who finally decided to intervene) to take a step back from music and leave school. However, he goes out with a bang denouncing Fletcher’s mistreatments and having him sacked. This would be the celebration of a sound approach to life and an uplifting ending, barring joining a rock band and having tons of fun while on world tour. Alas, this is not that kind of tale: there is a comeback and a final show down and the audience is left wondering if anyone really won or it is just a beginning of a new chapter of an enabler and his favorite addict. Chazelle has put together an interesting movie, thanks to amazing performances and refreshing directing choices; in addition jazz makes a great soundtrack. Captivating —7.5/10
4 responses to “Whiplash”
Teller and Simmons are both great here and allow for these characters to come off as more compelling human beings. Nice review.
I completely agree with you.Thanks for reading Dan!
I can’t remember the last time I saw a film with so many catchy phrases: You’re Lagging, Not My Tempo, Good Job. I keep wanting to find ways of using them in conversation. And then, I tell myself to grow up. I mean, really…
Anyhow, I liked Whiplash a lot more than I expected. I think that after the car accident, and the following scene at the concert hall where he really loses it, the film took a big deep breath, and had to think awhile as to how to move forward into the remainder of the narrative. In this sense the rest of the film felt a bit like a slightly awkward third act that was sort of glued-on to the main story later on. Still a good job, and not so much lagging, but not quite the same tempo as the first two acts, which I felt were flawless in this regard.
And here ends my waffle!
It is indeed a good film mostly due to the impressive performances of the two leads. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.