Want to watch a movie about some college kid who wants to be the best drummer in the world? Of course not. Want to watch J.K. Simmons scream and push that college kid till his hands bleed? Yes please! What if the movie was from one of the writers of The Last Exorcism Part II? Wait! This movie is awesome! Don’t leave!
Whiplash stars Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman, a college freshman who strives to be one of the greatest drummers in history. When one of the conductors at his school, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), is searching for a new drummer, Andrew seizes the opportunity. Fletcher’s teaching style involves emotionally torturing his students, cursing them out, and making them play the same five beats for hours on end until it’s perfect. That makes Andrew and Fletcher perfect for each other.
The film’s plot sounds unexciting to say the least. Not bad, just boring. But leave it to the writer of Grand Piano to grab the audience’s attention with a “meh” plot. Damien Chazelle’s dialogue for Whiplash is truly outstanding. How can one not get excited whenever Fletcher opens his mouth? Fletcher’s outbursts are offensive, hilarious, and absolutely terrifying. How about hearing Andrew talk about his goals? His perseverance is relatable but outrageous. The dialogue was a joy to listen to with a lot of that credit going to the actors behind the characters.
Miles Teller gives a solid performance here. Nothing Oscar worthy, but he truly gives it his all when he’s drumming away and sweat and blood are pouring out of him. The look on his face and the speed of his wrists easily make for Teller’s finest performance to date.
J.K. Simmons is the scene stealer in this movie. Every time this man graced the screen, it’s impossible not to get excited. Simmons perfectly captures the aggression, attitude, and charisma of the character. He truly elevates every scene he is in, and he is absolutely the frontrunner for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
The other performances work well enough for the movie, although there’s nobody who can steal the scene away from those two. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Director Damien Chazelle lets a couple of other actors get some screen time, but he keeps the action primarily on those two and doesn’t let go. It makes for a stronger character study and thus, a stronger movie.
Finally, without spoiling anything, the final scene in this movie is one of the most well-directed scenes in any movie in a long time. What’s happening in terms of the story makes it great enough, but the ferocious camerawork is exemplary to say the least. Not much to be said without spoilers, but it’s worth mentioning in this review.
Whiplash is one of 2014’s finest flicks. It’s darkly funny and emotionally disturbing on top of having some of the best direction for a movie in a long time. Teller is great, Simmons is excellent, and Chazelle has a long career in Hollywood ahead of him. Whiplash isn’t a movie that benefits from a big picture and sound, but that shouldn’t stop anybody from seeing this terrific film.