Whiplash – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review
When you’re hot, you’re hot. It seems every movie I’ve watched this week has been excellent. Last night I watched Whiplash and two thoughts kept going through my head as I watched this remarkable film: first J.K. Simmons definitely deserves the Oscar, and I don’t think I’ll ever like any character Miles Teller plays.
Teller plays Andrew Neiman, a young drummer at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York City where he drives himself towards perfection. Simmons plays Terence Fletcher, his intense teacher who has an incredible ear for talent, and an incredibly harsh way of teaching. He belittles the students by yelling at them, calling them names, humiliating them, and even throwing things at them, as he tries to bring out the best of their musical talent. Andrew practices his heart out and plays incredibly well, but never seemingly up to the levels his teacher wants, expects and demands. He manages to become the first drummer in the school’s competitive jazz band, when he can play a piece by heart that the former lead could not. Now that he is seemingly rising to the top of his craft, the problems and stress only get higher. Realizing he only wants to drum, he breaks up with his girlfriend. At a family dinner, he mocks his cousins who play football (it’s only class C) and are on the model UN teams at their schools. Andrew has no friends, he simply drums now. When a big competition looms, can he satisfy himself? Can he satisfy Fletcher?
Full of incredible music and capped off by brilliant performances, I really enjoyed this film. I’ve liked J.K. Simmons in everything I’ve ever seen him do, the man is extremely talented. He’s already won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor, if Simmons does not walk out with Oscar gold this Sunday, I’ll be incredibly surprised and disappointed by the Academy. Is Fletcher incredibly cruel to the students in the film? Yes he is, but in his mind, he’s just incredibly driven and trying to be a proper inspiration to them. As the film progresses, we see a more human side to Fletcher, but only glimpses as when the spotlight is on, or he’s in the classroom, he is all business.
I opened this review by saying I haven’t liked any character Miles Teller has played, and that is true. Every character I’ve seen him play has been a jerk, and the same is really true in Whiplash. That isn’t to say that I don’t like him as an actor. I think he is very talented, it is just ironic that he’s does such a good job of making me dislike his dislikeable characters. Again I give credit to Teller, as he drummed all his own music during the film. He had been a drummer for ten years, in and out of different bands, but they were rock bands, and while the skills are similar, he had to take intense lessons to become a believable jazz musician. He did more than become believable, he was very good. The film was written and directed by former jazz drummer Damien Chzelle who also helped coach Teller in his playing, though not to the degree that Fletcher would have.
Bottom Line: If Sony wants to know why their Amazing Spider-Man films failed, it’s because they didn’t have J.K. as J.J.J.