Whiplash (2014)

“But is there a line? You know, maybe you go too far, and you discourage the next Charlie Parker from ever becoming Charlie Parker?”“But is there a line? You know, maybe you go too far, and you discourage the next Charlie Parker from ever becoming Charlie Parker?”

“But is there a line? You know, maybe you go too far, and you discourage the next Charlie Parker from ever becoming Charlie Parker?”

Not quite my tempo. Four simple words that can turn one of the most optimistic bright eyed students into an anxiety riddled depressed shell of a human being. These four simple words carry more weight than any piece of instrumental equipment that is used in this film. These words are used at first, rather calmly to inspire someone but as they are used more often – a more expletive demeaning way is the ultimate end result. Four words hold all the power in determining how successful a person will be in their career. Imagine that. 

How much drama could there possibly be in a colligate jazz orchestra? If you want to be regarded as one of the greats like Charlie Parker than a lot is at stake as far as colligate orchestra goes. Whiplash exposes what’s kept secret behind closed doors. We get to see an introspective view beyond what is in front of our eyes in a theater sitting (un)comfortably in a chair with armrests the size of toothpicks. If director Damien Chazelle’s intentions were to make the viewer severely uncomfortable by these characters, then he succeeded, with flying colors. 

Ask a successful entrepreneur what it takes to become successful and they will say it takes hard work, dedication, timing and luck. All can be said for just about any type of dream or aspiration a person has. For some, that is the purpose of college. Others don’t need that. They work hard to achieve their goals. Andrew (Miles Teller) wants to be regarded as one of the greatest jazz drummers to ever live. Even more successful than Charlie Parker – famous Jazz saxophonist who lived only 34 short years. Andrew is willing to sleep in a practice room and play drums until his hands are all blistered and bleeding. That is quite the dedication to the craft. 

“Were you rushing or were you dragging? If you deliberately sabotage my band, I will f*** you like a pig. Oh my dear God – are you one of those single tear people? You are a worthless pansy-ass who is now weeping and slobbering all over my drumset like a nine year old girl!”

He is even willing to burn all his bridges just to drum. He picks fights with his family because of how they prioritize him, and he breaks up with his girlfriend Nicole (Melissa Benoist) (who he pursued in the first place) citing that they would come to resent each other because of his determination to be the best. All of this self-destruction is caused by his Jazz instructor Terence Fletcher (J.K Simmons). Terence has unorthodox methods for getting the best out of his band – to put it nicely. 

Terence comes off as a nice, caring person who will get to know you on a personal level just to use that against you. In his mind, what he does to get the best out of his orchestra is the right thing to do. He sees himself as the holier than thou inspiration yet he comes across as the villain. Or maybe he’s an anti-hero, attempting to live up to a promise to make those around him better.  He will be violently and verbally abusive to get you to a place of excellence that you never knew you could achieve. He’s ruthless in his pursuit to instruct the next Charlie Parker. Terence when it all comes down to it, can be compared to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s no wonder Andrew is like a sponge around him. Andrew mimics Terence’s actions and attitudes and applies it to his own life thinking that’s how success works. It doesn’t, at all. Instead Andrew uses these behaviors as his own rationalities in his decision making. 

Their relationship is strange. It’s the credit of Miles and J.K that these characters are extremely unpredictable. Both actors are able to push themselves to get the best out of their respective performance. It’s like a car accident. It’s hard to look at but you can’t seem to look away. Both actors will leave you wanting to see more than that last scene and beyond. It’s almost as if Damien wrote these characters to see who can be the pettiest. Who will go that extra mile to embarrass the other? Frankly, I think it’s a tie. 

There’s beauty in their hypocrisy. Terence reminisces over the tragic loss of a former student who he says died in a car accident (we learn that to be an exaggerated lie) but when Andrew nearly kills himself for Terence, he’s called expletive this and expletive that. Both of these characters are a cancer to one another – Terence more so than Andrew. The entire film leads up to the final crescendo of sorts where finally Andrew hits the right tempo and gains Terence’s respect. 

“And when I do see you, you’d treat me like shit because I’m just some girl who doesn’t know what she wants. And you have a path, and you’re gonna be great, and I’m going to be forgotten, and therefore you won’t be able to give me the time of day because you have bigger things to pursue?”

J.K plays this role with such passion and cruelty that borderlines the sociopathic. He is able to have the viewer question if he’s way too harsh or if he’s a genius – Damien’s script doesn’t point to a true north in its explanation. Miles is outstanding in his leading role. He carries this film on his back with his fierce determination to be the best. He literally sheds blood, sweat and tears over his drum kit to prove he isn’t insignificant. Whiplash is a force to be reckoned with. Its emotionally driven enough to make the viewer feel a certain type of way depending on what you’re feeling in the moment. The theme’s portrayed are not to be taken lightly and this type of behavior should be the type to get the best out of someone. 

Overall, Whiplash is a masterpiece. It’s fueled by the performances of its lead and supporting actors and deservingly so, J.K deserved the best supporting actor award. The camera work is some of the best at capturing the raw emotions and the script and direction is near flawless. If I were to rate Whiplash, I’d rate it a 4.8 out of 5. 

So, tell me guys, have you seen Whiplash and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

Whiplash is written & directed by Damien Chazelle is Rated R and has an 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Whiplash was released on October 15th, 2014 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 47 minutes. Whiplash can be bought by online retailers such as iTunes, Google, Amazon and Vudu.

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