October 21, 2014
Andrew Nieman is an introverted 19-year old freshman in the Schaefer Conservatory of Music in New York City. Aside from his dad, he does not relate well to other people, as he is always obsessively practicing on his drums. He catches the attention of a notoriously hard-driving teacher Terence Fletcher, who recruits Andrew to join his studio jazz band. There, Fletcher pushes Andrew to play his drums to perfection using a hard abrasive instruction style, inflicting physical and emotional expected only from military drill sergeants. Will Andrew make it through or will he snap under the pressure?
Miles Teller is a young star on the rise. He was in three other films this year alone, including "Divergent". He is set to be seen as Mr. Fantastic in the reboot of "The Fantastic Four" franchise next year, along with four other films. "Whiplash" proves that he is also a serious actor to reckon with. The role is physically exhausting and emotionally demanding, and Teller nails it. As the drums prodigy Andrew, Teller looks like he mastered playing that drum set for real for this difficult role. Unlike the piano, it is hard to fake playing the drums. His passion in playing is palpable from across the screen.
J.K. Simmons, whom many of us only know as J. Jonah Jameson, Peter Parker's boss, in the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films, plays the irascible Mr. Fletcher, a teacher who is never satisfied with only good enough. He plays a hateful character who tended to exceed his boundaries as a mentor. Be it in his expletive-laden tirades or with just one penetrating stare, Simmons drips with chilling malevolence. However, Simmons imbues Fletcher with other layers so we do not only see him as just a one-dimensional antagonist.
"Whiplash" features some gloriously-filmed jazz band performances. I personally do not like jazz so much, but the exhilaration of the playing and the richness of the music are very hard to resist. The perfectly-edited scenes showing the band passionately playing their music had the vigor and energy of a sports match. That super-intense final scene alone will literally keep you at the edge of your seat. The audience in the theater where I watched erupted into spontaneous applause when it ended.
This is certainly not just another "Mr. Holland's Opus" or "Music of the Heart". While this also has student-teacher drama and beautiful music, Writer and director Damien Chazelle presents his story in a most unexpectedly disturbing, suspenseful, violent and even horrific way. This extraordinary film is brutally raw and frank, no punches were pulled. You will never hear the words "Good Job" the same way again. Such was its brutal yet exquisite sting. 9/10.