Whiplash (2014) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Stars: Miles Teller,  J.K. Simmons,  Melissa Benoist

I have to hold my hands up and admit I’m not a big fan of jazz but I have to say, I really enjoyed Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. The movie is about Andrew Neiman played by Miles Teller who is an ambitious young jazz drummer. Andrew is hungry and his goal is rising to the top of his elite music conservatory.

Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is an instructor known for his terrifying hardline teaching methods plucks young Andrew from a lower class to become a interim drummer in his ensemble and Andrew quickly realises the rumours about Fletcher’s teachings are very true and extreme.

The audience understands the relationship between Simmons (“Fletcher”) and Teller (“Andrew”) right from the kick off and looking back on the movie they are essentially the only characters in the film worth remembering. (That’s not a bad thing by the way) this is a result of the excellent writing from Director and Writer Chazelle.

Andrew’s dad played by the brilliant Paul Reiser and his girlfriend Melissa Benoist (Supergirl) are merely supporting characters and to be honest the movie probably shouldn’t have used these well known actors that serve little purpose other than to remind us outwith the Jazz clientele there are “normal” people out there who are not like Neiman or Fletcher. Without sounding cruel they could have really got anyone to play these roles.

The character of Andrew is insufferable at times in his attitude and his pomposity towards family members and close friends and fair play to Teller who does an amazing job of maintaining a dour and insensitive expression throughout the movie playing the dedicated student Nieman. He has the drive and the ambition to be a success, but feels his personal life must take a backseat on his pursuit of success.

Miles Teller really shows the agony and pain in his character going through to reach his dream and at times the intense drumming sequences look incredible and torturous workouts at times. He  also gives a spectacular performance as an unlikeable character who aspires to be one of the great jazz drummers and is convincing showing a great passion for what he does and I felt the actor really understood the character.

Simmons’s Fletcher is a superb sadistic maniac who thrives on filling his musicians with fear, paranoia and dread at every opportunity. He can only be described as our antihero of (kind of), Terrence Fletcher has a knack for reducing his traumatic students to the point of total mental and physical exhaustion and even depression. But his reasons for acting the way he does is for the sole purpose of finding the next big “Yardbird” Charlie Parker that will be otherwise lost, if not being pushed to the very limit by Fletcher.

I feel he manages to combine Fletcher’s distinguished persona with his terrifying unpredictability and is one of those actors that is simply great in every role he is in. At times there is signs that there is something within Fletcher that commands respect and approval. I felt Chazelle done a fantastic job in casting the two leads in Teller and Simmons. One thing I have to admit to is, I enjoy dark humour and “Whiplash” has plenty of that to go round.

Damien Chazelle directing and writing in “Whiplash” that allows the audience to enter the mindset of Andrew and Terence. I felt the script manipulated the viewer with giving Andrew little moments of success but swiping it away the very next scene and allowing us to experience the reaction of Andrew when Fletcher wanted to press or manipulate him. Each turn of the story shapes his expectations and ambitions and then escalates it to the right point.

I often think the best films are those that reach out to the most diverse and wide spectrum of film fans. Whiplash is refreshing to see, most people wouldn’t be strong minded enough to take that kind of punishment so it’s interesting to watch Andrew go through it all and see how far he was prepared to go to succeed. Director Chazelle achieved this with “Whiplash” which is full of well executed scenes and above all else, a love towards music and the challenges it often represents if you want to get to the very top. Highly recommended.

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