<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Damien Chazelle. Starring Miles Teller, JK Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist
Critically acclaimed but in my opinion a tad forced and improbable story, Whiplash can take credit for making dark and psycho look aspirational.
Some artists are born great and some achieve greatness and some are pushed to greatness from a cliff by their music teachers! The latter is the case in Whiplash, a story of a music school in New York with a teacher named Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons) who is ruthless in his instruction as a conductor to his students who he treats like rookie soldiers in the military are treated by a drill sergeant.
Terence is looking out for talent that he can groom to be the next big thing thus making him the guy who spotted the next big thing. He finds 19-year-old Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) playing drums at the school and inducts him into his own competitive jazz band. Then begins a torturous and somewhat maniacal journey that only has any real meaning for the two characters who are at loggerheads through the movie.
Blood, sweat and tears are literally spilt – gruesomely all over the kit – during the process of turning Andrew into a top-notch jazz drummer. Teacher Terence curses, hurls chairs, insults Andrew’s parents and calls him a faggot, continuously dangling carrots and then whiplashing them away from the boy whose aim to get to the top allows him to endure these atrocities.
Andrew’s determination is established through showing us his practice sessions where his fingers bleed all over the drums. It’s shown to us when he breaks up with his lovely but aimless girlfriend (Melissa Benoist) since she’d only ‘hold him back’. And then we see his fortitude after he’s in an accident, all bloodied and shaken but pulls himself to a performance on stage and plays till he bleeds some more. I thought, ‘Come on!’ So this teacher is fine and his band mates are oblivious to his bleeding all over the stage and think nothing of going on with the show? It’s gritty, sure but highly ludicrous.
But the film is brilliant in portraying this teacher-student ‘bond’ that reaches a crescendo of psychotic drama. The fact that Andrew takes up the challenge, threatens his teacher and keeps forging ahead is great to watch, till a point. Once that gets to blood spilling levels, it gets icky and you’re left thinking, is this for real. Miles Teller looks great on the drums and has clearly practised hard to make that look believable. JK Simmons didn’t make me feel anything more than ‘Gee, he is a psycho’. There’s no real depth to that character.
I’d have liked to see more of the bond between Andrew and his father (Paul Reiser). Whiplash is perfect with its single-minded portrayal of this disturbed dynamic but explores little else and in my opinion you either believe it or don’t.