Writer: Damien Chazelle
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Production company: Blumhouse Productions, Bold Films, Right of way films
Distributed by Sony Pictures.
One of the more gripping films I have had the pleasure of watching in recent times. Intensely gripping, as in it literally forced my body to move at certain points, and with the incessant tapping of my feet, and shuffling in my seat, I can only say it is a fortunate thing for the rest of humanity that I saw the movie by myself… But Jazz will do that to you.
Whiplash is the story of young drummer Andrew Neyman, played by Miles Teller, who is accepted into an elite music academy, known as the Shaffer Conservatory- the best and most prestigious music school in the USA. One day, while practising at the academy on his own, Andrew is stumbled upon by infamous academy teacher Terence Fletcher, played by J.K Simmons. Terence is both feared and admired by the student population, and so his appearance in front of Andrew is both exciting, and unnerving. Andrew plays a piece on his drum set for Terence, and so begins a student teacher relationship that is, at its core, asking the question of what it takes to create artistic genius. What would you do to create it?
The movie has an appeal to anyone who has strived for perfection in something, but in particular, I think anyone who has trained at an Arts based institution, where your every move is critiqued, questioned, maybe even undermined, will find this movie an interesting critique in and of itself into how an artistic discipline is created. It asks pertinent questions on how far is too far when pushing someone to be their best.
The music of the film is Jazz, it is what is taught, studied and played -and like Jazz, the film is not always moving to a beat that appears normal or safe at first listen. The performances are the same, with Miles Teller, as Andrew, proving again that he is more than just your affable smart arse, he is in fact a person of substance who can really draw you in to the obsessive nature of someone who is trying to be the best at something and the sacrifices that come with making certain choices. The character of Andrew wants to be the next ‘Buddy Rich’, and we see the kind of behaviour unfold that might happen when someone chooses to walk down that path. Similarly, J.K Simmons delivers a commanding performance as the uncompromising teacher Terence Fletcher, who will do and say anything in the belief that it is the constant challenging of one’s ability that will, through some ritualistic baptism of fire, elevate the best to the status which they deserve.
While I will agree that some of the films associated tactics require some suspension of disbelief, I would also remind critics of the film that just because you don’t believe someone would ‘do things like that’ to another person, doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. Indeed, go and ask someone who studied at NIDA or WAAPA what is the most severe thing you’ve seen a teacher say or do to a student, and you might, in fact, learn something new.
Whiplash is charming, thrilling, unnervingly amusing at points, and is a remarkable and unique achievement in film making. The supporting cast is terrific, with a suitably understated performance from Melissa Benoist as Andrew’s suffering love interest, and Paul Reiser (of Mad About You fame) as Andrew’s Dad, who is perceived (wrongly in my eyes) as a failed writer wanting his son to succeed, but not if the cost is too great. I acknowledge that the film may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but lovers of films with originality and a unique voice will enjoy it for its uniqueness alone, I believe – so if you are yet to see it, make a point of doing so.
Rod @ Lovesac
[Ratings are based out of our 7 sizes of Lovesac: Kidsac, Gamesac, Playersac, Pillowsac, Moviesac, Supersac, BigOne. Accessories are used as markers in between sizes/ratings: Tubesac 1/4, Cubesac 1/2, Minisac 3/4. The bigger the Lovesac - the more we love the film.]