Whiplash

Movie:  Whiplash

Rating:  4 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) aspires to be a great drummer like his idol, Buddy Rich.  He attends the Shaffer Conservatory of Music, one of the best in the country, and graduates tend to find successful careers as musicians.  Andrew is plugging along in one of the conservatory’s bands when one day he is plucked out of his seat by legendary instructor Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), and told to report to his jazz band.   This surprise move is akin to a utility infielder on a AA farm team being promoted to the New York Yankees.

Andrew is delighted by this recognition of his drumming ability.  In a surge of confidence, he asks out Nicole (Melissa Benoist), a girl he has been too shy to talk to, and to his surprise, she agrees to a date!  Seems like everything is going young Mr. Neiman’s way.  That is, until he attends his first session with Terrence Fletcher and his band.  In the first thirty seconds of practice, Fletcher criticizes and berates his new drummer, and the criticism escalates until Fletcher slings a chair at Neiman’s head, which Andrew mercifully ducks in time.  Clearly this is not an easy class to pass!

How does Terrence Fletcher get away with his behavior?  He is a legend at the school, and his jazz band nearly always wins first place in national competitions.  The fact that his musicians achieve this level of excellence because of, or in spite of, Fletcher’s bullying and dictatorial conduct is overlooked because of the results.  Andrew is determined to measure up to Fletcher’s impossible standards, and drives himself mercilessly practicing until his hands bleed.  Pick your cliché:  “No pain, no gain”, or “To make an omelet you have to break a few eggs”; clearly, something is bound to eventually give in this contest between Andrew who is trying to reach his full potential and achieve greatness as a drummer, and Fletcher, the one man who may help or hinder him in this endeavor.

All I can say is OMG, what a terrific movie!  It is sad to see such amazing small independent films get ignored in a market geared for blockbuster films that are often not half as good. You know you have seen a great film when you leave the theater after watching Whiplash feeling “jazzed“, no pun intended.  The acting by the two leads in this film was not only only good, it was electric.  Even if you don’t care much for jazz music, this was a compelling story that builds and builds to a crescendo by the end of the film.  Go see it.  Please….

Actors To Watch:  This is a break out role for Miles Teller.  He has done good work in movies such as Divergent, The Spectacular Now, and was the best part of a mediocre teen flick That Awkward Moment.  Good things ahead for this young actor.

This role is the highlight of a long and distinguished career for J.K. Simmons.  Generally a character actor and supporting player, he has appeared in movies such as Spiderman, Juno, True Grit, and is best known as Chief Pope in the TV series The Closer.  In Whiplash, Simmons assumed the role of Terrence Fletcher and transformed himself into this authoritarian instructor who at times can be fatherly and soft-spoken, and then with no warning turns into a snarling angry task master who can never be satisfied  by any performance.  Simmons physically adapted to this character by shaving his head, and wearing tight black T-shirts that show off a powerful physique.   Whenever he gets in a student’s face to list their shortcomings, his laser blue eyes seem to bore right through them.  All in all, a mesmerizing performance that deserves a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

Dialogue Nuggets:   Andrew:  “I want to be one of the greats.”

Fletcher:  “We will play here all night until one of you faggots can play in time!”

Fletcher:  “That is not your boyfriend’s dick.  Do not come in early!”

Fletcher:  “Get the f**k out of my sight before I demolish you….I can still see you, Mini-Me!”

Fletcher:  “Neiman, you earned the part.  Alternate, clean the blood off my drum set.”

Fletcher:  “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.”

 

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