What an absolute gem of brilliance Whiplash is! As a musician, I was thoroughly excited for this film, but Whiplash is more than just about music. It’s about greatness and being pushed to achieving greatness, no matter how insane and intense the journey might be.
Whiplash focuses on a first year music student Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), a driven young drummer who earns a seat on the school’s best jazz band. This studio band is lead and conducted by Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons), the infamous teacher who uses fear, intimidation and, sometimes, violence to push his students to perfection and drive them to become the best.
Based on his years in a studio jazz band, Damien Chazelle wrote and directed a 15 page short film a few years ago entitled Whiplash, that has now been adapted into a feature film for the big screen. I have the utmost respect for Chazelle, who’s film is an exhilarating musical roller coaster, with beautifully crafted, intimate shots, where you can fully experience, appreciate and marvel at how impressive being able to play a musical instrument well really is. Words fail me and there is just no other way to describe Whiplash – it is hugely impressive.
There was a buzz surrounding JK Simmons and his performance as Terence Fletcher, which was considered Oscar worthy and some of the best acting of this year. This was not false praise at all; JK Simmons was electrifying! As the sadistic, dictator of a Jazz band conductor, he was utterly genius, comic yet terrifying with the right amount of intensity. Often, I had a shiver of deja vu, as like Damien Chazelle, I also had an experience whilst at school with a drama teacher who put the feeling of “utter dread” into me, a lady like Terence Fletcher who was equally as pushy and a perfectionist, yet pleasing her was the best accomplishment in the world. Admittedly though, she was a pussy cat compared to him! JK Simmons was deserved of the Oscar he won only 10 days ago. But this performance is matched the whole way by the wonderful Miles Teller. As Andrew Neiman, you watch him transform and warp from an innocent, scared young man into an egotistical, immature and unpredictable boy instead, two ends of a spectrum that are constantly changing as a result of being pushed to the extreme by Terence Fletcher. Miles Teller is an up-and-coming gifted actor, who in future will hopefully be recognised for his acting talents as well as for drumming his heart out (Teller actually played the drums on this film.)
Featuring fantastic jazz music, including the title song Whiplash, and an astounding final act, if you told me you were disappointed by Whiplash, I’d be disappointed in you. For me, this is the best film of all the Oscar films nominated this year, and may have slipped onto my list of all time favourites.