There is not a single artist that watched Whiplash without thinking of his personal drive and achievements, possibly in the fetal position, hours after, late into the night. Andrew, an excelling drummer, joins the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory of Music, prepared to give it his all. Once there he meets what can only be described as anyone with a dream’s worst nightmare: Fletcher; his emotionally and physically abusive, dream crushing, professor. I met a buddy at the door, he had never heard of the film before. GREAT. ADDED EXCITEMENT. I skipped the popcorn in anticipation of the self-inflicted anxiety attack I was about to endure.
Right on tempo:
Right from the get go we feel the hunger for success and the drive that moves Andrew and we carry his fear of failure in an intimate way. Miles Teller’s performance is so goddamn incredible, full of honest and specific choices that earn the audience’s trust. He presents fresh, with a burning drive and ambition and as he evolves all of his decisions make sense to us: he works past his fear, he hardens, gets cocky, he breaks, and we are right there, lured so deeply by his performance that we experience the decisions he is making at the same time he does. Miles Teller becomes Andrew, he plays Andrew’s drums, sweats Andrew’s sweat and bleeds Andrew’s blood. Literally. Miles practiced and played so much that a lot of the blood on screen was his.
J.K Simmons is the scariest motherfucker. His performance is beautiful, impeccable, because throughout the obvious insanity of the character, he conveys his drive and passion in the few, but impactful moments when the character is at ease or opening up. In those mesmerizing moments we understand the importance of his approval. And in spite of our fear, we have moments of compassion for Fletcher, so much so that we don’t want him to lose. Feeling compassion and fear for someone simultaneously is the fucked up shit that people talk to their shrinks about. And J.K Simmons does it so well we don’t want to see him fail. Which is why the ending is incredibly rewarding.
It would be disgraceful to not give the cinematography and editing a standing ovation. The manic cuts of drumming and the numerous angles and close ups of blood and sweat had my eyes watering steadily throughout the film. The longer shots of Andrew drumming like his life depends on it are held for as long as we can bare it, which is longer than we would have originally predicted.
All that said, I have to admit that I somehow left the theater feeling underwhelmed. My buddy, who had watched most of the film laying in his seat with his hands over his face, loved it. And the difference in our experience was simple.
Not quite my tempo:
The chair that flies across the room, the breakup, the outburst and attack of the professor, the single most important line of the ten lines the father has, ALL OF IT was in the trailer. Every single last exquisite turning point. And if you haven’t seen the trailer, and you just read that list, you still have a shot of being incredibly enthralled and moved by Whiplash, because reading and hearing things is a lot less impactful than seeing them, thus the experience will remain of a high quality for you.
Which brings me to my next, point.
Every other meaningful event that happened in the film, we didn’t get to see, we just HEARD of it happening. We hear Andrew say he is going to testify against his professor, we read his letter of dismissal as it comes in and out of focus, and then all we are left with is packing and unpacking of bags as Andrew moves back in with his dad, and the passage of an unestablished amount of time. Now, I am usually very enthusiastic of well executed subtlety in heavy moments. But when all of the pro tension moments are killed in the trailer, we are waiting to see it escalate past “trailer material” on screen.
If you haven't seen the trailer, don’t watch it, kids. And go watch this film as soon as you can.
All in all, we’re inclined to give this movie a pretty good rating, but as Fletcher said, “There are no two words more harmful in the English language than, 'Good job”.