Since I first heard about it after last years Sundance, I’ve been interested in watching Whiplash. Whilst I’m not really a fan of Miles Teller, I am a fan of JK Simmons and seeing so much acclaim for his performance, with an Oscar win likely, made me really excited to see this film. After watching the film, my anticipation was justified. Out of all the films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars this year that I’ve seen, this is my favourite.
The plot concerns Andrew Neiman, a jazz drummer who is a first year student at Shaffer Conservatory, one of the best music schools in the country, who has desires of being one of the best drummers in the world. In order to achieve this, he tries to become a member of the band conducted by Terrence Fletcher. He eventually succeeds but he suffers intense abuse at the hands of Fletcher, which drives him to push himself further and further in order to make himself one of the greats. The main theme throughout the film is whether or not the abuse that Nieman receives is justified. Throughout the film, stories are told about how some of the best jazz musicians who ever lived became that way because of abuse that they suffered early in their career, motivating them to better themselves. As the film goes on, we see how Neiman starts to become a better musician, aided by the brilliant direction from Damien Chazelle, whilst at the same time, causing irreparable damage to his life. There’s also a great deal of intensity to the film, mainly due to the performances which I’ll mention later, but Damien Chazelle’s script and direction, along with the brilliant choices of music throughout the film, adding to this intensity. Throughout the film, we see the lengths that Neiman will go to in order to better his skills at the pain that he puts himself through is brilliantly shown by the direction and Teller’s performance. The music scenes meanwhile have this air of tension throughout as you never know exactly what will happen, mainly due to the unpredictable nature of Fletcher. This is one of the most engaging films that will be released this year and it’s a film about jazz drumming. I never thought that could be as intense as it was.
For the cast, whilst every other member does a great job, the film is a two man show between Miles Teller and JK Simmons. In the past, I’ve not been a fan of Miles Teller, his performances always came across a bit too smug for me, plus he was in Project X which is inexcusable. Here, Teller uses this to his advantage, showing Andrew to be someone driven to be great, at the expense of having any meaningful relationship. Even within his family, Andrew is a complete dick, not caring about the successes of his cousins as they cloud his and are not great. There’s also this intensity to Teller’s performance, compounded by a lot of the cuts on Teller’s hand being real, that adds to the overall intensity of the film. The big player in the film though is JK Simmons as Fletcher. All the abuse that Fletcher gives to his students is made incredibly intense, but also really entertaining, by Simmons. All of the best lines in the film are given to him, and the brilliant way Simmons delivers these lines creates some great moments of comedy throughout the film. There’s also this air of intimidation and respect from the performance meaning that, when you see his students stand at attention when he comes in, you understand why. Simmons also shows some depth to his character, showing the motivation for his abuse and his fear that his abuse will have been for nothing. He also shows a great deal of respect for music and to the students of his that have done well, even if he doesn’t understand the impact that his abuse has had on him. It’s almost a given that Simmons is winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and he absolutely deserves it. Whenever Simmons and Teller are on screen together there’s this intensity to the whole situation, which is what makes the film so good.
Overall, Whiplash is one of the most intense, engaging films that has been released in this Oscar season. The brilliant direction from Damien Chazelle and the incredible performances from Miles Teller and JK Simmons create one of the most watchable films about music ever made. I’m not really a fan of jazz music and I was captivated throughout the entire film.
My Rating: 5/5