“Whiplash” is “Rocky” with band instruments! No, really! It has an underdog with a dream, bloody training montages, and the coach that’s trying to push him to greatness. It’s an utterly mesmerizing film about the lengths some people will go and subject themselves to in order to achieve perfection!
You know that goofy smirk you make, when a character you’re rooting for does well? You’re guaranteed to make more than a few of those throughout the film. Never have you rooted for a protagonist so quickly than with freshman Andrew (Miles Teller). From the opening frame he’s in a room by himself practicing the drums, laboring away at his passion. We’ve all been in his shoes as the nervous, new kid on the block. He’s awkwardly trying to figure his way through the fictional Schaefer Conservatory. He’s doing what he loves most at the number one school in the country.
J.K. Simmons is an atmosphere changer as Fletcher, the school’s core band maestro. Fletcher commandeers respect, and has a no-nonsense attitude when it comes to his band. He brings Andrew up from “JV” to play with the big boys in the core after hearing him practicing alone. As Andrew slowly assimilates into the core, he witnesses and becomes the subject of Fletcher’s abusive push to make his band great.
The humiliation at the hands of his director drives Andrew to practice harder. As he becomes more laser locked on achieving greatness, he also destroys relationships and sometimes himself in the process. Regardless, Andrew’s arch over the course of the film is something to see as you watch the underdog rise!
This film is an excellent example of when a writer also being the director can create something truly amazing due to his or her deep understanding of the film they are making. Damien Chazelle absolutely knocked this film out of the park in pacing, tone, and direction! Simmons range throughout the film is undoubtedly incredible. He walks the line of genius and psychopath with ease as he pushes his students in dehumanizing verbal rants and the occasional hurling of instruments. Miles Teller turns in a terrific performance as a young student willing to pay the cost to be the best. It’s obvious that Teller gave all of himself to the role as he physically sweats and bleeds over his drum kit. The chemistry between the two is perfect as they have a battle of will.
“Whiplash” is definitely one of the best films of the year! The final scene, much like a “Rocky” movie, is one of the best emotional showdowns without the use of words or fists-just music-that I’ve seen in film. It’s an all around hypnotic film that will have you playing to the beat of its drum!