At some point in everyone’s life they aspire to be great at something. For some it was on the athletic field while for others it was in the classroom. In the film Whiplash, Andrew is a young jazz drummer who wants to be the greatest of all time and throughout the film makes it very clear what his goal is despite the crazy looks that he gets when expressing the depths of his dreams. Andrew is enrolled at a prestigious music school in what appears to be New York City and has just begun his journey towards what he hopes is stardom.
Early in the film, Andrew is approached by a man who turns out to be Terrance Fletcher, one of the top conductors in the school. Andrew is asked to join one of the upperclassman jazz bands as an alternate and you immediately get the sense that Fletcher is one of the most intense band directors of all time. The first scene where Fletcher enters the room with all of the musicians sets up the tension that exists for the rest of the film as you learn very quickly that Fletcher is not one of those teachers/instructors that you can push around or play around with.
Andrew is played by budding star Miles Teller who has played good roles but has yet to really land that true breakout role (He may have found it in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot). Teller does really well playing Andrew who is as driven as any character I’ve ever seen with a pretty quick-witted attitude to go with it, making him a very abrasive character to his family and colleagues. Teller’s performance was outstanding but unfortunately he was overshadowed by the brilliant acting of J.K. Simmons who played Terrance Fletcher. Simmons played the character as aggressive as any character that I’ve seen in any film in recent memory. There are scenes where Fletcher pushes his students, especially Andrew, to the breaking point and beyond. Simmons deserved the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role hands down and without a doubt. It truly was an awe-inspiring performance by J.K. Simmons.
This was only the second full length film for director Damien Chazelle who developed Whiplash into a full length feature from the short story that it was in 2013. I thought he did a magnificent job showing one and only one character’s point of view which provided and extra claustrophobic element to the film. The tight shots throughout the movie really gave you an uneasy feeling especially during the intense scenes between Andrew & Fletcher. I’m very interested on what films Chazelle is involved with in the future.
Whiplash essentially is a story about how far you are willing to push yourself to be great and also how far you are willing to push someone else in order for them to be great. We see this dynamic played out all the time between students and teachers. When the teacher has pushed the pupil to the brink in order to get the best out of him/her, that’s when we usually ask ourselves the question of ‘how far is too far?’ Whiplash is an incredible film and an intense story about one student who is willing to go through hell to achieve greatness and his rocky relationship with the teacher who pushed him to that greatness. I highly suggest this film to anyone but be aware that there is a lot of very graphic language thrown about by Terrance Fletcher and some very uneasy scenes between him and Andrew.