Prior to seeing Whiplash, the only other movie about drumming I was able to watch was Drumline. While I liked that film, I absolutely love this one. Thank God for Sundance! Without them, Damien Chazelle’s project would have lacked funding. What happened was the director of La La Land had no money to make it so he submitted a short film to Sundance. They liked it so much that they sponsored the production of the masterpiece that is Whiplash.
In this movie, Miles Teller plays Andrew Neiman, an aspiring jazz drummer who goes to Shafer University because of it’s reputation as one of the best music schools in the US. He is chanced upon by Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) in the practice room and gets invited to try out for his studio band. On the side, Andy starts dating Nicole (Melissa Benoist), the girl behind the snack bar at the theater. What follows is his journey into madness to try to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Buddy Rich, and become one of the greats.
I regret not watching this earlier since it came out in 2014 alongside other amazing Oscar Best Picture nominees such as Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, American Sniper, and, eventual winner, Birdman. This continues the streak of music-themed movies that I think are worth watching over and over again. Now, I just saw it twice in a span of three days.
The best thing about this film is the performances of its stars. Teller and Simmons go all out in this musical spectacle. This is especially true for Miles as he is featured in every scene in the movie and the story is told from his point of view. But the new Commissioner Gordon in the DC Expanded Universe stole the show as the mentor who will do anything to bring out his students’ potential. He even won the Oscar Best Actor in a Supporting Role award beating out the likes of Robert Duvall, Edward Norton, Ethan Hawke, and Mark Ruffalo.
What puts it over the top is the sheer amount of insights you can glean from it. As a leader and a follower, I definitely learned a few things like vision, commitment, and focus. The highlight is surely Fletcher and Andrew’s talk at the jazz club towards the end. ‘There are no two words ever more harmful in the English language than “good job”‘ is what the mentor told his former student after explaining that it’s an absolute tragedy for people to think that doing okay is enough. Greatness comes to those who are willing to sacrifice and push themselves as hard as they can in order to achieve their dreams in life. I’ve struggled with this my whole life and he’s right. You miss the mark if you don’t become who you were meant to be.
However, I believe J.K Simmons’ character’s methods are too extreme. Even if his intentions are good, the end does not always justify the means. Moreover, not every student is the same so there’s no reason to be that abusive to everyone. Neiman was also blinded by his ambition and he was willing to subject himself to abuse in order to get what he wanted. Andrew got dismissed from the university and Terence was also removed from his position. There is no point in acquiring a certain level of success if you lose yourself in the process. Why did you do it in the first place? It was painful to see our protagonist watching a home video of his much younger self playing the drums. It reminded him of how much he enjoyed drumming before the restless pursuit of greatness that ensues.
That being said, I am going to rate this movie 4 stars out of 5. Did you like the movie? Do you agree with my review? Share your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.