Whiplash: Simmons & Teller Star in Thrilling Oscar-Winning Music Drama
Shot in only nineteen days, there is a lot to be said about Chazelle’s mesmerizing Whiplash – the director’s second-feature after 2009 film Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench – but dull, quiet and uninteresting are certainly none of them.
Based on the director’s eighteen-minute short of the same name, Whiplash is set in New York City and tells the story of Andrew Neyman (Teller); an aspiring nineteen-year old jazz drummer and student at the elite Shaffer Conservatory in Manhattan who dreams of one day becoming the next Buddy Rich.
So, when he’s approached by one of Shaffer’s most prestigious and respected conductors, Terence Fletcher (Simmons), and offered the chance to be the new drum alternate in his jazz orchestra, Andrew doesn’t know whether to be excited or absolutely petrified at what awaits him in the days and months to come.
Eager to get started and throw himself into the music, Andrew quickly learns that Fletcher’ teaching methods are not the most conventional ones, with his tenacious drive for perfection often resulting in both verbal and physical abuse of his students. With very little option at his disposal, Andrew – who quickly dissolves any romantic entanglement with his near-girlfriend, Nicole (Benoist) in order to completely devote to the music – pushes himself to the absolute limits and tries his best to meet Fletcher’s almost impossible standards.
One of the first things you will notice about Whiplash is how Chazelle has freed the picture from any unnecessary clutter – the focus is clear. Music is the central core of Whiplash; the energy is electrifying from the beginning and the tension – which is at times almost palpable – is compelling all the way throughout its pulsating minutes. While this is a film that can comfortably be considered as a coming-of-age story, it’s the obsession buried deep into every artist’s psyche that forces them to achieve absolute greatness that serves to be the film’s underlying exploration.
In what is probably one of his most riveting performances to date, J.K Simmons is absolutely captivating as a fearful, talented and downright frightening jazz conductor who uses fear and bullying as the main motivator in his pursuit for perfection. The veteran actor crafts his character with great complexity, though young Miles Teller deserves similar plaudits.
Ferocious and unforgiving, Whiplash never skips a beat; it will entertain, shock and enthral – a must see.