January 26, 2015

Movie Review: Whiplash (2014)

When it first arrived I really had no interest in seeing Whiplash. It was a movie that never popped up on my radar and based on what little I had seen about it, was not all that interesting. Then, for some reason, the title kept popping up and folks who had seen it, kept singing its praises, and then came the award nominations. Now, my interest was growing a little bit. I still wasn't really convinced, but it began playing at the local second run theater, I had some time to kill, so I decided to give it a shot. I needn't have had concerns. While it is not a great film, it is really very good.

I am not quite sure that I love Whiplash as much as many of its backers do, but it is certainly an involving film that features a couple strong performances and has some pretty good music. The movie was written and directed by Damien Chazelle. It has also had an interesting path to the big screen. After failing to gain funding, he turned it into a short film that gained some notoriety and led to funding for the feature to be attained. On top of that, lead Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now, upcoming The Fantastic Four) initially turned the role down before his agent insisted he take it. Prior to this, Chazelle also wrote the screenplay for The Last Exorcism Part 2 (which was surprisingly decent).

The story centers on Edward Neimann (Teller), a talented young drummer who enrolls in prestigious music conservatory where he hopes to be taught by Terence Fletcher ( JK Simmons). The movie wastes little time as we are introduced to Edward practicing, only to be caught by Fletcher. The next day Edward is plucked from his class and installed as backup in the school's top competition jazz band. It all appears to be going well, but this is merely the beginning of the torment he will endure.

Fletcher is a demanding instructor. Well, that is not exactly accurate, he goes well beyond demanding and on into areas that could be deemed torture. The mental torment and anguish that Edward is put through, well, I am not sure I would have been able to put up with. Edward pushes and struggles against his abusive instructor. The things he is put through are make or break in the most literal sense of the words. On the other side of the coin, Fletcher is a flat out monster, taking the student/teacher relationship to abusive new levels.

Whiplash is built on the back and forth tension between Edward and Fletcher. Sure, there are other relationships in the film, but they all come across as afterthoughts (meaning: probably a lot of cut footage). At the center is Edward and Fletcher, the back and forth that goes on between them is intense, brutal, sometimes physical, and yes, there is blood.

This is straight and to the point. The music is solid and usually in well constructed back and forth ever escalating battle sequences. What makes everything even better is that while the movie really has singular focus, the characters involved are more than one dimensional. You may want to look at JK Simmons portrayal of Fletcher as a one note bully, but he is so much more than that. He really is the reason to watch this.

No, Whiplash is not perfect, but it is an utterly intense and mesmerizing film. It makes you wonder about the things that drive you to do what you do and what you will take as a result of pushing for those dreams. At what level is it too much? What are you willing to do? What are you willing to give up?


Related Posts with Thumbnails


Post a Comment