Whiplash – 4 out of 5
I was in band in grade school. I played the clarinet and, me thinks, that this fact makes it completely realistic to believe that I can relate to this film….ah, fuck. Who am I kidding? I wanted to play the drums in band but I ended up playing the fucking clarinet. I wanted to be the Miles Teller in this film and rock the shit out of those drums…I guess that’s how I can relate to Whiplash.
|Okay...now that we're getting a new Spider-Man series that will exist in the MCU, can we|
please have Simmons come back to play J. Jonah Jameson? Please?
|Play a jazz version of "Freebird!"|
Andrew (Miles Teller) is attending the highly acclaimed Shaffer Conservatory music school in New York and dreams of being the next big drummer to beat the world into oblivion with his sweet kicks (or whatever slang that drummers use). While there, he is granted to be an alternate in conductor Terrence Fletcher’s jazz band. There, he is berated and verbally abused by the teacher and is pushed to be a better drummer. Andrew becomes so obsessed with being better than Fletcher expects from him that he practices until his hands bleed, he hurts his relationship with a potential girlfriend (Melissa Benoist), and even flees the scene of a car accident in order to get to a performance. However, soon both world’s of these two men come crashing down and the stage is set for Andrew to finally be the best and win over Fletcher’s respect and approval.
|"I SAID PLAY 'WIPEOUT!'"|
I had some reservations about this film. I didn’t know if I would dig the story but wanted to see it for J.K. Simmons, I’m a big fan of the guy. My biggest hang-up with this film was Miles Teller as the struggling but determined drummer. I’m not a fan of the guy. I didn’t care for his douchy character in 21 & Over (albeit, that film had a lot more wrong with it than just Teller) and I’ve never really seen a part played by him that really spoke to me. This one changed that.
|Playing Expert on drums can do that to you when you desperately want to get 5-stars.|
(Yep, my Rock Band references are dated. But don't worry, there will be another one
While I will admit that Teller isn’t as memorable in this film as Simmons is, I have to say he was a lot better than I was prepared for. Teller really captured a magical mix of a fiercely determined musician and a completely arrogant and petty kid who only is looking out for himself and his best interest. Of course, by the end, Andrew realizes he was kinda stupid and learns all this when his world comes crashing down thanks to his own bullheadedness but Teller perfectly captured that growth and those characteristics. From watching him smirk over someone else being belittled by Fletcher, seeing his cockiness when he belittles others’ achievements to seeing his heartbreak when he realizes he might not achieve his dream or didn’t act on his feelings with a girl he met felt realistic and wasn’t just another example of wooden acting I’ve seen from him like in Divergent.
|"So, uh, what are you doing later? Wanna grab a frozen yogurt or something?"|
The highlight, for me, in this film was the truly epic performance from J.K. Simmons. I’ve never seen him play a role badly—ever—but the man continues to prove to me that he is clearly some celestial being because no mortal man can act the way he does. Sure, the character of Fletcher is very un-PC and says some truly horrific and shocking things but it makes the character legit and when I see Simmons in action, I don’t see him as an actor playing a role. Instead, I seen him as the role he’s playing. He always becomes the character and this abusive, asshole-ish character felt real and believable thanks to Simmons’ ability to immerse himself in the character he’s playing.
|Okay-sign or playing a tiny violin?|
|Truly, theirs was a romance for the ages.|
The only real complaint I have about the film is the fact I feel the character of Nicole—the potential girlfriend of Andrew that gets thrown aside in his obsessed rush to be the best drummer—felt a tad superfluous. As the film opens, we see him court her and then it is only implied, very weakly. that they continued to see each other after their first date. When Andrew says that he needs to focus on his music and can’t have her possibly hold him down and breaks up with her, I found myself saying, "Oh, I guess they were dating this entire time." Granted, this element helps later when Andrew is at his lowest and is returning to music but, in the end, it didn’t feel needed and the film could have easily existed without her. Matters aren't helped that her screen time is so limited that you can even gauge if she's doing a good job or not. In fact, it might have been better to leave her out and focus more on the relationship with Andrew's father (played by Paul Reiser).
|Is he mad about his dad? Eh? I'll be here all week!|
Overall, I really enjoyed Whiplash. Miles Teller is better than I’ve ever seen from him and J.K. Simmons is incredible in his role. The story is pretty formulaic but it definitely works. I had one real complaint in the story and the movie might not have a lot of replay value for me but the film looks great, is edited fantastically, and the riotous drum numbers are enough to make me forget I once played the clarinet and finally get the drive to take up the drums—and stop pretending to play the drums on a Rock Band controller (see, I told you there would be a second Rock Band reference).