Whiplash (2014)

One of the dark horses in the Oscar race this year, Whiplash has been wowing critics all over, with particularly praise going to J.K. Simmons performance. But will it have the same effect on me?

Andrew (Miles Teller) is a first year student at a prestigious music school. After hearing him play one evening, conductor Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) accepts him as a drummer for his band. However Fletcher’s methods for conducting his students are unconventional to say the least and physically and emotionally abusive at worse. As Andrew strives to prove to Fletcher he’s the best drummer he has to decide whether Fletcher’s tactics work and at what cost?

It’s not often I see a movie that I can’t get out of head for days after I’ve seen it but Whiplash is one such film. Writer/Director Damien Chazelle has made a movie that could possibly become a modern classic. It is that good.

That’s not to say that Whiplash is an easy film to watch. At times Fletcher was so horrible to his students that I was covering my eyes like I do in a horror film. Whilst categorised as a drama film, I’ve seen comparisons to sports movies, and I can see the similarities. The ongoing battle between Fletcher and Andrew can feel like a boxing match, with Fletcher constantly displaying his dominance and Andrew just doing his best not to get knocked out entirely. At times the movie can be pretty funny too, there’s a lot of dark humour here. What I also liked was that the film provokes a lot of discussion and debate about the methods Fletcher uses. He seems to be of the end-justifies-the-means school of thought, but doesn’t seem to care about the repercussions of what he does to his students. And if he does happen to produce a genius from his methods does that make what he does ok? I don’t think so, but I can imagine others may see it differently.

It’s no wonder that J.K. Simmons won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. After spending years in the background in small character roles Simmons finally gives a wider audience a chance to show what he can do. Fletcher is at times monstrous but Simmons never hams it up. The character is grounded, he feels terrifyingly real. Like the worst teacher you’ve ever had multiplied by a thousand. Yet at times we see a softer side to him. You’re never quite sure whether he is being genuine and that makes for an interesting antagonist.

While I’m glad that J.K. Simmons has been getting a lot of deserved praise it’s a shame that Miles Teller has been rather neglected this award season, however he has been nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award so at least he has not been completely ignored. Teller plays the part of Andrew just right. At times he is the victim and at other times a self-entitled brat that treats his girlfriend (Melissa Benoist – soon to be Supergirl in a new tv series). You can really see Teller putting everything into his performance as Andrew fights blood, sweat and tears (literally) to keep up with Fletcher’s demands.

Is it a perfect film? Maybe not. The anecdote about Charlie Parker that Fletcher uses as his reason for why he pushes his students so far has been long been discredited. Also if you prefer a film about nice, likeable people, this isn’t one of them. And if it were, it would be a far less interesting and compelling movie for it.

Rating 5/5 – a brilliant movie with two leads who spar off each other perfectely

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Whiplash (2014)

  1. Good review Lauren. Teller and Simmons are both incredibly compelling to watch here as they allow for their characters to be neither good guys, or bad guys. They’re just guys.

    • Thanks Dan. I think its the complexity of the characters that makes the film so great. If they were just standard ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’ it wouldn’t be half as good.

  2. Reviewed it only a day ago & already stated it to be my Movie of the Year.

    And just like you, I’m yet to recover from it! Both Teller & Simmons are at their best here … And while others saw a monster in Fletcher, i saw a teacher who’s willing to push his pupils beyond what they believe is their limit. His methods may be extreme but in the end this is what brought out the best in Andrew.

    Awesome review, Lauren

    • Thanks. It would definately be my Movie of the Year (or technically of last year).

      While I do see Fletcher’s method as crossing the line and brought out the worst in Andrew as well as the best, I can the other side of it too. I enjoy hearing other people’s view on Fletcher. Its one of those films where everyone can have a different opinion and it makes for such a thought provoking movie. Theres strong arguements on both sides.

  3. Whiplash is one of my fave movies from last year and I’m very glad to see it get an Oscar nomination, hopefully more movie-goers will give this one a try. Good review!

    • Thanks. I’m glad to see theres so much love for this film, if only more people would see it. While I’d love for it to win Best Picture I think its best shot is for Best Supporting actor. Hopefully it will encourage more people to see it.

  4. Great review Lauren. The film really does raise a lot of questions about how far the line is. And what a performance by Simmons. I’ve seen him around for so long, so nice to see him given his platform, or rather stage ha.

  5. Great review Lauren, sorry it took me so long to come by and review the film but as you saw it took me a while to get to the film and I had to avoid so many reviews just to get an unbiased view. But like you said it is a terrific film which leaves you thinking about it a lot after it ends.

    I like how you not only brought up the sports comparison but also how the film makes you look at Fletcher’s methods and see if it does justify the means. I think he’s a bastard, however, he does have a method to his madness and he does get results. That being said he has given people so much shit and caused so much psychological pain. Simmons is a don, what a performance. Even though I feared him greatly because I wasn’t sure when he was gonna explode like a volcano, at the same time I wanted to see how far he could push Andrew to get better.

    Oh and Teller was briliant too, I do feel like he’s gotten the short end of the stick with how little coverage he’s gotten as the film’s other lead character. His character was so driven and relatable, seeing him struggle and bleed for the drums was insane. I did not expect him to make some of the descisions that he made towards the end of the film though, he’s a trooper for sure.

    P.S. Sorry for the long-winded comment but I had a fair amount to say about this film lol.

    • So glad you enjoyed the film too, its just so amazing. I don’t blame you not wanting to read any reviews before watching the film yourself. Sometimes its best to go in fresh without any preconceived ideas about what you are going to watch. Simmons is just brilliant. Like you said its a shame Teller has been a bit overlooked but I think he has got a bright future ahead of him. Hopefully this bodes well for the new Fantastic Four movie.

      And I don’t mind long comments. Its always good to have discussions with people who care so much about films.

      • I too hope that Teller brings some flair to the new Fantastic Four film, I’m very unsure about it, but I do want it to surprise me, Oh and thank god, I try not to ramble too much in the comments in case people aren’t interested in seeing long-winded responses. 😛

  6. Great review! I couldn’t agree more, it is a phenomenal film, fully deserving of any and all accolades it receives.

    • Thanks. I wish this would win best film at the Oscars but I don’t think this is going to happen unfortunately, but fingers crossed for Simmons though.

      • Hi Lauren. Did you have as a big smile on your face as I did when Simmons name was called? The DVD for Whiplash is being released in the states tomorrow. I know I will be headed to the store to buy a copy after work tomorrow.

      • Hi, yes I did have a massive smile and cheered as Simmons collected his award. Shame Teller couldn’t get anything too but I think he will have his fill of awards in the future.
        On another note, did you get the email I sent you? It was just to say that I will be sending you my comments on your work by Sunday if thats ok?

      • Agreed.

        Yes, I got your e-mail and responded back to it. I have had some people tell me that they have not received the e-mail I have sent them. Whenever you get a chance to send your comments would be great.

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