Hi everyone, Bryan Here….
Big sacrifices and the desire to be the best in the world with your skill and art form is both questioned and put to the test in writer/director Damien Chazelle’s phenomenal jazz-infused film ‘Whiplash‘. This movie is focused on jazz music, but closes in on what one individual will go through to be the best in the world with the difficult question being, “Is it worth it?”
This is Chazelle’s second film, and if his sophomore effort tells you anything, it says that he is destined to be one of the greats. The background of ‘Whiplash‘ is quite impressive. Chazelle entered it in as a short film at Sundance in 2013 where it won the Best Short Jury Prize. A year later, we have a a feature length film, which is bold, refreshing, and flawless. If you’ve ever been a part of a school band, theatre troop, choir coral, or debate team, I’m sure you’ve had a teacher whose style was to bully or engineer their student’s lives in a negative manner to get their talent the best it can be, as well as to separate the winners from the quitters.
It will surely bring up memories, good or bad while watching this film as the Shaffer Conservatory of Music University’s (ranked No. 1 in the U.S.) top music professor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) more than just instructs his students to play some of the best jazz compositions around for competition. In fact, Simmons pulls the soul out of Gunnery Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket‘ to mess and manipulate his students to give him perfect performances.
Andrew Nyman (Miles Teller), a 19 year old freshman is a very devoted drummer who is on scholarship at Shaffer in hopes of making a career in music. Instead of posters of naked women or John Belushi on his college dorm room walls, he has posters of Buddy Rich and Charlie Parker, giving you the idea that Nyman is indeed serious and passionate about his studies. You can add to this a very traumatic experience for him that happened a year ago that urged him to spend every waking minute practicing, which leaves him not only inclined, but even enthusiastic to endure whatever Fletcher throws his way, figuratively and literally.
Fletcher’s jazz ensemble of students are very talented, however are tossed in and out at Fletcher’s chaotic demeanor no matter how light the mistake. Fletcher always demands the impossible on every minute detail and is not afraid to use very course language to intimidate his students to get them to play something to his liking. Nyman must sacrifice having a genuine relationship with a new girlfriend (Melissa Benoist) and spending time with his father (Paul Reiser) in order to appease Fletcher. As Fletcher pushes, terrorizes, and pressures Nyman to get a good performance, Nyman’s emotions come to the front, crying, punching walls, and even destroying his drum kit to the point where his hands bleed profusely. But again, the central message of this story is what are you willing to sacrifice and go through to be the best at your skill and art form.
This is not a puff piece about jazz music or attaining your dream, but rather a raw and intimate look of how truly heartbreaking and tormenting it can be to play music at the most prestigious school in the nation. Chazelle has perfectly orchestrated a flawless flow with a superb payoff as we climb that treacherous ladder to attain that beautiful view. His editing skills are top notch here with cuts set to the sweet jazz soundtrack that should earn this film an Oscar nomination not only for acting, directing, and writing, but also for editing.
Miles Teller is is brilliant and raw in this role, and continues to amaze and entertain throughout every performance he gives. And Simmons plays this part very two-faced, in the fact that he can downright scare the shit out of you and make you run the other way, while on the other hand, make you fall in love with his brilliance in a flash. These are two performances that won’t be soon forgotten. The soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard this year, making ‘Whiplash‘ in my Top 3 films this year.
5 out of 5 Stars
– Bryan Kluger