Movie Review: Whiplash (Carpal Tunnel Edition)

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What’s it about

Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller)  is an aspiring 19 year old jazz drummer. Having just enrolled in the prestigious Shaffer Music Conservatory,  he and many of his classmates know that infamous Conservatory conductor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is looking for a new drum alternate for his studio band. To his surprise, he manages to impress Fletcher into the giving him the job at an impromptu audition. The delight soon turns into despair when the previously courteous and polite Fletcher tosses a chair at Andrew for being slightly off beat during practice. Andrew soon realises that Fletcher is a master manipulator, with draconian training methods to boot. Determined to prove himself to Fletcher, Andrew puts in more time into training, even cutting a budding romance off  before it even starts to blossom.

The Awesome

Compelling Characters With Killer Performances to Boot: J.K. Simmons’ performance as Terence Fletcher (already generating early Oscar buzz and now a Golden Globe winner!) is easily the most captivating thing about this movie. The veteran character actor, usually seen playing affable and humourous roles, does an about face here as the intense and un-remorseful trainer, determined to push his proteges to their limits and then some. In his bid to get the best out of Andrew, he even brings up Andrew’s father’s failed writing career and his single parent background to motivate the young man. It’s pretty darn extreme. Out of the band setting though, Simmons’ portrayal of Fletcher even retains some of his trademark persona that has seen him play all sorts of father/leader type figures. Of course, once he’s shouting and putting Neiman through his many tests, he makes the bosses in Horrible Bosses look completely normal and tolerable in comparison.

Whiplash movie review
His finger flick can deal a lot of damage to his proteges

The leading man, Miles Teller, is up to the task of matching Simmons on the screen. He is able to convey Neiman’s drive to one day become one of the “all-time greats”. He brings the gruelling blood, sweat and tears that he puts himself through in order to get that seal of approval from Fletcher and nearly breaks several times in doing so. It’s ultimately the the duel between these two men: the unforgiving mentor with the best intentions coupled with possibly the worst methods and the steely student, eager to rise above the torturous training to become a legend that produces the film’s drama. Which one of them, the unstoppable force or the immovable object is going to move? Can genius really be achieved through rigorous practice? It’s extremely riveting stuff.

All That Jazz: The film is centred around jazz and it’s done rather beautifully. Many cuts are executed to the score of old-timey jazz standards, bringing about a sort of controlled frenzy to the film’s overall energy. Many a time during Andrew’s practices, it’s chaotic… other times, it’s smooth like butter.

Even with the film’s look, there seems to be a brass glow to the proceedings, no doubt in part due to the amount of brass instruments that are present in a jazz band… but also maybe as a symbolic representation of the brass rings that Andrew wants so much but cannot seemingly attain: Fletcher’s approval.

Not So Sure About That…

Seriously, I got nothing for the dislikes section. Sorry.

Verdict: 5/5

A riveting effort from sophomore director Damien Chazelle. Whiplash makes full use of its two leading actors/characters to extraordinary effect, bringing about an intense, even inspiring experience about the dynamics of an extremely challenging student-mentor relationship.


To watch or not to watch…

Definitely Watch If…

Avoid This If…

  • You enjoy jazz.
  • You can’t unsee J.K. Simmons’ performance as J. Jonah Jameson in those Spider-Man films.
  • You can appreciate great acting performances.
  • You don’t think being screamed at by Simmons for 106 minutes is your idea of entertainment.
  • You’re really excited for the Oscar season to begin.
  • You’re a troll.