Review: 'Whiplash'


[vc_row][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_column_text disable_pattern="true" align="left" margin_bottom="0"]In writer-director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, everyone is broken. The hero is a social misfit who forgoes human interaction to pursue a dream that’s likely to end in tragedy. The villain is a fear-inducing maestro who refuses to accept anything less than blood-soaked precision. And despite an inability to coexist, they’re perfect for each other. Chazelle’s remarkable film – his second feature and commercial debut – concerns itself with a young jazz drummer named Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) who is desperately trying to impress a famed hard-ass conductor (J.K. Simmons) and make a name for himself at a world-renowned music conservatory. At first, Neyman comes across as sympathetic. His talents seem secondary to his plight as a lonely student who’s unable to make a connection with his peers. But then a string of small successes, and a positive interaction with the aforementioned maestro, give him the confidence to ask a cute girl (Melissa Benoist) on a date. In similar stories, this signals the blossoming of our recluse and the beginning of the end in regards to his self-imposed solitude. But Chazelle takes us the other way; Neyman does not befriend his fellow musicians, or embrace this new relationship. Instead, out of fear that he’ll be distracted in his quest to achieve immortality, he burrows deeper into loneliness and obsession. We come to realize that this won’t be a traditional “underdog defies the odds” tale, because the odds are not Neyman’s adversary. What he desires is unique and potentially unattainable: To be the absolute best. And what’s even scarier is that he’s willing to put in the work necessary, even if it kills him. What feeds Neyman’s fixation is Terence Fletcher, who is brilliantly portrayed by Simmons as an unstoppable force of nature. Fletcher has apparently earned near-untouchable status at the conservatory; he picks young talent on a whim and molds them into what he hopes will be legendary musicians through nonstop verbal abuse and an insistence on absolute perfection. Fletcher is obsessed with a dangerous moment involving a cymbal toss that pushed Charlie Parker to become a jazz legend; despite the fact that Parker also died at 34 after a lifelong heroin addiction, he’s convinced that transcendence can only be achieved via perseverance through a never-ending sea of torturous shit. And Neyman agrees. He wants to suffer for his craft, and it is a craft to him. Jazz isn’t portrayed as a beautiful art form in Whiplash; it’s a rigorous science with right and wrong, good and bad. Perhaps this is why a film about jazz focuses on two white men; they're embracing a style of music that doesn't belong to them. Fletcher isn’t inspiring his students to create; he’s demanding they master the classics with pinpoint accuracy. As Neyman states in a tumultuous dinner conversation with his family, there’s nothing subjective (or creative) about it. And maybe there’s some dark truth to Fletcher’s teachings; his methods are debilitating to the mental and physical health of his students (it’s announced at one point that a past pupil has taken his own life) but is he correct in believing that a fanatical push from a superior is needed to help supreme talent achieve true greatness? In the mind of both our protagonist and our antagonist, the answer is fairly obvious. Simmons may supply most of the sizzle but Teller is far from a slouch. His baby face somehow exudes the ideal amount of shaky confidence; despite frequent shots of his sweaty brow and terrified stare while the bright lights reflect off Simmons’s glistening bald head, there’s something consistent in the young actor’s demeanor that illustrates Neyman’s deep well of desire. But this willingness to push beyond the usual limits is visible to Fletcher as well, and he never flinches at an opportunity to test Neyman’s resolve. Chazelle imbues every musical performance with an unbearable tension. Even the ones that go well are frightening; you’re either waiting for Neyman to collapse or for Fletcher to create some new challenge that the young student must face. Even when the maestro isn’t present, his ghost haunts Neyman and pushes the kid to inch further and further over the edge. By the end

of the film, every marathon session ends with blisters bursting and blood dripping down Neyman’s hands. All Fletcher asks is that the blood is wiped clean from “my drum set” before they proceed. Meanwhile, Chazelle shoots each scene as if it’s a thriller where the murderer is right around the corner. Especially during the performances, where we frenetically leap from one instrument to another, from a shot of the sheet music to the faces of the musicians themselves as they aim for flawlessness. While Neyman might be the shakiest of the bunch, Chazelle makes it clear that everyone in the band is playing for their lives. That might be an exaggeration on paper but it’s real in the world of Whiplash; whether they whither or bloom with Fletcher’s booming outbursts, their musical futures are surely in his hands. It all builds to a masterfully staged finale where the two come together as equals for the first time. But the connection that’s forged isn’t one of joy but begrudging acceptance, and in meeting Fletcher’s standards Neyman has pushed himself so far beyond where mere mortals might go. It’s what they both wanted, but it’ll also be fleeting. There will always be new heights to reach for, new challenges and struggles that don’t allow for happiness in the traditional sense. Is it worth it for those brief shining moments when perfection is attained? Most people would probably say no, but in Whiplash it’s what they live for. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/3"][vc_column_text disable_pattern="true" align="left" margin_bottom="0"][mk_fancy_title tag_name="h2" style="true" color="#393836" size="14" font_weight="inhert" margin_top="0" margin_bottom="18" font_family="none" align="left"]Details:[/mk_fancy_title] [mk_custom_list style="48" icon_color="#00c8d7" margin_bottom="30" align="none"]

  • Directed and written by: Damien Chazelle
  • Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist
  • Runtime: 106 minutes
  • Release date: October 10, 2014

[/mk_custom_list] [mk_fancy_title tag_name="h2" style="true" color="#393836" size="14" font_weight="inhert" margin_top="0" margin_bottom="18" font_family="none" align="left"]More reviews from this author:[/mk_fancy_title] [mk_custom_list style="48" icon_color="#00c8d7" margin_bottom="30" align="none"]