Synopsis – A promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
My Take – Films about music are usually the last on the list of films I ever feel like watching (Don’t hate me for that), but something about the film’s trailer caught my eye! I know nothing about drums or musical instruments as such, but always had just sincere admiration for people who dedicate their time to learn & play with such passion. Same goes for the type of music, for example in this movie, where Jazz is the theme, a very under rated & dying form of music. I have been following Milles Teller for quite some time now. Frankly I have become a fan of his peculiar comic timing in silly rom coms like An Awkward moment, Two Night Stand etc & in Divergent, we got see a new dark side to him. But here in this film, Holly!! The story follows Andrew Neyman, a 19-year-old aspiring student jazz drummer at a music conservatory in Manhattan who’s pushed and inspired by the abuse and aspirations of his school band leader Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) with a ruthlessly brutal teaching style.
After picking Andrew to play in the school band, he pushes Andrew to his limits in order to realize his full potential, at the risk of his humanity. Terence has a reputation for being the best, but mentoring under him comes at a price. He is ruthless with his verbal abuse & taunts that attempts to push his students towards the greatness he believes they can achieve. Newcomer Andrew is no spared his ire as evidenced in this heated reaction when Andrew can’t find Terence’s tempo, , “Were you rushing or were you dragging? If you deliberately sabotage my band, I will gut you like a pig. Oh my dear God – are you one of those single tear people? You are a worthless pancy-ass who is now weeping and slobbering all over my drumset like a nine year old girl!” There is no “Wash-on, Wash-off” PG-ness here. Writer/Director Damien Chazelle has turned his Sundance award-winning short film into a fascinatingly brutal message movie that begs for discussion and debate. This film is a journey in the search of your inner spirit, inner creativity, not only will it make it clear that you cannot succeed without effort and hard work, it will also make you realize there are two different kinds of artists – those who make art and those who creat them. Being mean is in Terence’s nature. And his assault on his young protégés is sometimes hard to watch. The best part of the film its keeps you so engrossed, you will always be unsure of where it is headed. The technical aspects of the film help it become so stimulating with dizzying closeups tightly edited together and its the stark orange tinted cinematography. It’s thoroughly impressive that the Miles Teller knew nothing about drumming before this film & the film was shot in only 19 days & for them to get shots so immaculately timed and performed with all those complicated movements. The concluding act only further exemplifies the events and personalities that took us to the stage and the audience cheered in Andrew’s defiance while gasping at his situation. Writer-director Damien Chazelle does a stunning job of keeping us on the edge of our seats wondering when or if a climatic breakdown will occur. We watch in awe as Andrew gets pushed and pushes himself until his hands bleed after hours of relentless play. We feel as uncomfortable for his situation as we feel trapped in finding a solution to Andrew’s goal. Miles Teller is on a crazy streak; doing some decent movies and putting in even better performances, but Whiplash definitely taps his greatest effort thus far in his incredibly young career.
JK Simmons is as good as they say he is. He’s a force of nature, with a terrifying presence. But it’s not a one-note performance. Simmons is still subversive with moments of weakness, insecurity, approachability. Even though he’s an unlikeable character with nothing nice to say, he’s still somewhat endearing and enigmatic! Director Damien Chazelle has given us a cinematic gem! He seems like a filmmaker that knows exactly what type of films he wants to make. He takes inspiration from his own life, his love of film and music, and other places I’m sure we don’t know about, and molds them into a gritty, layered experience, conditioned with rich characters, all realized through the writer’s story. He has given us one of the best scripts of 2014 & without doubt the BEST climax I have seen in a long while. An ending that will bring tears to your eyes, dual performances that will have you applaud, and an experience that you surely will not forget. Drumming has never felt like such a personality. It acts as a visible tool for the viewer to understand and try. Expect some awards going in the way of “Whiplash” and look out for Simmons in the Oscars shortlist, that’s how good he is in it. On the whole Whiplash is not just film or a character study of two people, but an art & an education in itself. Holy Must watch!!
Director – Damien Chazelle
Rated – R
Run Time – 107 minutes