release date: 24 October 2014 (Canada)
run time: 107 mins
considered: Drama, Music
director: Damien Chazelle
starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Chris Mulkey, Damon Gupton, Suanne Spoke, Max Kasch, Charlie Ian, Jayson Blair, Kofi Scribe, Kavita Patil, C.J. Vana
movie summary: New York City is the one place where aspiring artists and people move to in hopes of achieving their dreams. Andrew (Miles Teller) has been a drummer since he was a kid and earned an enrollment in a prestigious music conservatory where he crosses paths with a teacher named Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). In the classroom Andrew is pushed to the edge and then kicked over it by Fletcher, who demands nothing but perfection from his students. Together the two will battle day in and day out to get to where they want to be personally and professionally. Eventually things take a drastic turn for the worse which leaves Andrew questioning his future.
my thoughts: Whiplash is considered a contender for best picture of the year and was indeed a fantastic movie. It was given a limited release months ago and I only managed to check it out this past weekend. Movie goers and critics around the world have done nothing but praise this movie for how compelling the story is and the performances of both Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons.
I’m a sports guy and love the movie Varsity Blues with James Van Der Beek and Jon Voight. While I was watching Whiplash the head to head battle between Andrew and Fletcher reminded me of the struggle between starting quarterback Jon Moxon and coach Bud Kilmer. These two movies are on completely different in every aspect, but reminded me of one another. Andrew is the aspiring drummer who is chasing the dream, the one person who stands in his way is Fletcher, the so-called best teacher in New York City and maybe the world. He has no choice but to play Fletcher’s game because the only way he’s going to be successful is by listening, practicing, and standing up for himself. As most of you probably know, Moxon ended up as the star quarterback but coach Kilmer promises to destroy his future if he doesn’t play by his rules.
J.K. Simmons plays a cut throat music teacher that I would never want as a friend, let alone an instructor. He has a brilliant musical mind but lacks the people skills to be a good person. His main job is to teach music and bring out the best in his students. Armed with insults, swears, and the ability to completely crush the human spirit, Fletcher will push his students to the point that some of them will contemplate suicide. When someone begins to cry, he just turns up the heat and pours on the insults like they are maple syrup on pancakes. He cares enough about a student’s life story only to use it against them and continue the psychological break down. I felt Simmons just looked the part and his mannerisms carried the character to a whole new level we rarely see in movies. His voice was by far his best attribute because when he was yelling at someone, everyone else in the room didn’t know if it was okay to breathe or blink. Fletcher was not afraid to throw things to get his point across because at the end of the day if it wasn’t good enough, he was going to hold everyone accountable until it was right.
Miles Tanner on the other hand has not had a solid career like J.K. Simmons, Whiplash could very well be his coming out party. It would be an understatement to say that Miles poured a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into his character Andrew, because when you watch him perform, there was no holding back. When Andrew meets Fletcher for the first time, he is star struck. This is the guy who could select him as a first year student and there is nothing he won’t do for the opportunity of a lifetime. Andrew gets a heavy dose of reality when he gets selected to become a core player in Fletcher’s band, only to be thrown right into the fire. Frustrated that he will never be everything Fletcher wants in a drummer, Andrew practices and practices until his hands are covered in blood. He is so determined to be the best for his teacher that he’ll dump his girlfriend, stop hanging out with his dad, and will become a loner just to be successful. When his life and career comes to a death defying halt at a competition, Andrew loses everything in life he has ever had. Fletcher has won at this point, because he demanded so much out of Andrew and he wasn’t able to handle the pressure. Fletcher made him so weak that he walked away the most important thing in his life.
It was very sad that for everything Andrew put himself through that he would just walk away, but walking away only set up the final act of the movie which was simply amazing. The final 20-25 minutes is the best part of an already amazing film that really shows how strong the human spirit is and that when someone wants something bad enough there is nothing that will stop them from achieving it. It was really powerful to watch Andrew drum his heart out on the stage in front of a few thousand people and prove that Fletcher is in fact a musical genius in selecting him.
my final thoughts: Whiplash may not be in a theatre near you today, but I highly suggest you find it someday and give it a watch. I don’t know anything about the life of a musical student, although my buddy told me life in the classroom can be pretty dramatic. This film will provide you with a glimpse of what it takes to be successful in music and life if you want something bad enough.
my star rating: 8 out 10
imdb: 8.7 out 10
rottentomatoes: 95% out 100%
roger ebert: 4 out 4
richard crouse: 4.5 out 5