With this blog not being my full time gig, it’s easy for me to not post as often as I want to, or should. So with that in mind I have a tendency to miss reviews and posts that are more timely. That being said, let’s talk about on of the better films nominated at the Oscars, Whiplash.
Whiplash follows, Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) a drum student attending a music school in New York. While he’s naturally talented he’s only in his first year of classes at the school and still has a lot to learn to became as great as he wants. While practicing one day Neiman meets Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), the school’s perfectionist Jazz Band leader.
While their first meeting didn’t go like Neiman wanted, he’s still asked to join Fletcher’s sessions. As an understudy, Neiman sees the terrifying dynamic of Fletchers band. From brass to drums the band seem to play at the whim of his every finger movement, fearing that his disapproval will lead to expulsion from the band.
After a few days as the understudy, Neiman is given the spotlight and helps the band win first place in a competition. Now as lead drummer for the band, Fletcher starts to mould him into a better drummer, but in the process pushes him to his limits.
With each lesson, Neiman is prodded through shouting, mind games and at time physical abuse. Looking for the approval of his teacher Neiman takes the abuse in hopes to get his teachers approval.
Whiplash is a two man show, as the majority of the screen time is taken up by our two leads Simmons and Teller. That being said, another who stands out is director Damien Chazelle. Despite not having the longest iMDB page, Chazelle shows off his talent for building and shaping scenes, as well as his ability to convey the movement of films soundtrack. Taking his own experiences in the school band world into his script, Chazelle crafts a story that is intense and dark, all while making you tap your foot to the crazy action on the screen.
But in front of the camera Simmons’ performance will leave anyone with a chill as he often goes from normal to full out intense at the drop of a “wrong” beat. Simmons hasn’t gotten the fame of other actors over the past 10 years, but this perfomance will make others see him in a more versatile light as a actor.
With a film based around jazz it’s important to get the big band feel down. Composer Justin Hurwitz picks and creates some amazing music that drives the film from it’s quieter moments to its most in your face intense scenes near the films climax.
Cinematographer Sharone Meir, helps meld the sound of the film with the visuals. While a jazz band on a stage or rehearse hall might not be the most inspiring thing to film, Meir adds movement to the instruments with the swing of a camera, or a close ups of a featured instrument. Then moving to closeups of the intense drumming of our main character and every bead of sweat on his face making our lead look like he’s gone 12 rounds in a championship boxing fight.
Whiplash gets a lot right over the course of it’s 106 minute running time, but the ending came off a little strangely. After time apart the two seem to be brought back together in hopes of finding true genius, however this is a man who won’t admit that someone is doing a good job so any hopes of approve should be mixed at best from our lead. That being said, there’s a lot to love about the film.
While this film, might not be getting the love from Jazz fans, that doesn’t stop it from being a great movie. It flows well and features an extremely strong performance from an actor who hadn’t gotten the attention he might have deserved. Whether you like Jazz or not, Whiplash is a must watch for lovers of film.
Whiplash was produced by Sierra/Affintiy, Bold Films, Blumhouse Productions and Right of Way Films. The film is distributed by Sony Pictures Classic.