Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist
Release Date: October 10, 2014
Everyone in attendance of the Sundance Film Festival this year all have one movie in common to praise, Whiplash. Winner of the U. S. Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, Whiplash has been gaining early Oscar buzz already. Starring in the film is upcoming actor Miles Teller who is preparing for his first blockbuster film playing Reed Richards, also known as Mr. Fantastic in The Fantastic Four. Teller has done a lot of teen directed roles in his early career but when a high performance is demanded from Teller just like in The Spectacular Now, he delivers. But is Whiplash's Oscar buzz worth all the hype? In 2013 Fruitvale Station, the winner of the U.S. Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, ended up not getting a single Academy Award nomination. Take that with a grain of salt as Chazelle's second feature is the best way to kick off the Oscar season.
A talented young jazz drummer experiences a trial by fire when he's recruited by a ferocious instructor whose unyielding search for perfection may lead to his undoing. For as far back as Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) can remember, he's been watching his father fail. Determined to make a name for himself no matter what it takes, Andrew enrolls in a prestigious east coast music conservatory where his talent quickly catches the attention of Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) an esteemed music teacher who's notorious for his caustic approach in the classroom. The leader of the school's top jazz ensemble, Fletcher promptly transfers Neyman into his band, giving the ambitious young drummer a shot at true greatness. He may achieve it, too, if Fletcher's methods don't drive him to madness first.
As soon as Simmons appears as Terrence Fletcher, his presence is not only dominant but terrifying. It's as if Simmons' refound his inner Schillinger and broke out of prison and became a jazz conductor to hide his identity. Instead of finding the best in his students and perfecting it, Fletcher hunts for their weaknesses just so he can make use of it by straining out the bad of his students. From Fletcher slapping Neyman around to help teach him the difference between rushing and dragging tempo to Fletcher's presence making another student cry while ONLY questioning him if he was out of tune or not, Fletcher's emotionally harmful teaching methods make this movie unforgettable. To Fletcher, nothing can be more damaging to a student than telling them "Good job."
Whiplash might not only be the birth of the next Hollywood superstar in Miles Teller, but the birth of the next hot director in Chazelle. Chazelle, who played the drums in a competitive big-band ensemble while in high school, used a lot of his own experiences to make the film. Like a true musician, Chazelle's film flows a beautiful melodic pace, rarely rushing or dragging; Fletcher would be proud. The film hits a mini speed bump towards the end but it all aids towards a crescendo that is the final act. With Teller playing majority of his scenes live, if he wanted to, could become a professional drummer if he ever decides to leave acting. The two will team up again in Chazelle's next feature La La Land which will also star Emma Watson.
What really makes Whiplash shine is the war between the two leads. Neyman and Fletcher share little dialogue but they battle each other with their respected skills: Neyman beating the drums as fast as he can while Fletcher tells him he is doing it wrong even faster. As if Neyman was attempting to build a house during a hurricane. You do not need to enjoy jazz or music in general to appreciate this film. If you have ever put yourself in the position where success is all you've ever wanted, than you will truly understand Neyman's journey.
Labels: 2014, Damien Chazelle, Full Movie, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Miles Teller, Movie Review