Whiplash (2014)

Drama, Music
Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist
A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student's potential.
Intense, inspiring, and well-acted, Whiplash is a brilliant sophomore effort from director Damien Chazelle and a riveting vehicle for stars J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller.
  • Sony Pictures Classics Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 15 Oct 2014 Released:
  • N/A DVD Release:
  • $5.9M Box office:

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Just My Tempo8/10
Greetings again from the darkness. The pursuit of greatness is not always pretty. No matter if your dream is athletics, dancing, music or some other; you can be sure hard work and sacrifice will be part of your routine. You will likely have a mentor, teacher or coach whose job is to cultivate your skills while pushing you to new limits. This film questions whether the best approach is intimidation or society's current preferred method of nurturing.

Miles Teller plays Andrew, a first year student at an elite Manhattan music conservatory. Andrew dreams of being a great jazz drummer in the vein of Buddy Rich. When offered a rare shot at the top ensemble, Andrew quickly discovers the conductor is a breed unlike anything he has ever encountered. The best movie comparison I can offer for JK Simmons' portrayal of Terence Fletcher is R Lee Ermey's Drill Instructor in Full Metal Jacket. This is no Mr Holland's Opus. Fletcher bullies, intimidates, humiliates and uses every imaginable form of verbal abuse to push his musicians, and especially young Andrew, to reach for greater heights.

Andrew and Fletcher go head to head through the entire movie, with Fletcher's mental torment turning this into a psychological thriller ... albeit with tremendous music. We witness Andrew shut out all pieces of a personal life, and even take on some of Fletcher's less desirable traits. Andrew's diner break-up with his girlfriend (Melissa Benoist) is much shorter, but just as cold as the infamous opening scene in The Social Network. At a small dinner party, Andrew loses some of the sweetness he inherited from his dad (Paul Reiser), and unloads some Fletcherisms on some unsuspecting family friends.

Writer/Director Damien Chazelle has turned his Sundance award-winning short film into a fascinatingly brutal message movie that begs for discussion and debate. The open-ended approach is brilliant, though I found myself initially upset at the missing clean wrap that Hollywood so often provides. What price greatness? Is comeuppance a reward? Are mentors cruel to be kind? For the past few years, I have been proclaiming that Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now) is the next John Cusack. Perhaps that bar is too low. Teller just gets better with each film. His relentless energy draws us in, and we find ourselves in his corner ... even though this time, he's not the greatest guy himself. Still, as strong as Teller is, the film is owned by JK Simmons. Most think of him as the dad in Juno, or the ever-present insurance spokesman on TV, but he previously flashed his bad side as the white supremacist in "Oz". Even that, doesn't prepare us for Simmons' powerhouse performance ... just enough humanity to heighten his psychological torturing of musicians.

You should see this one for Simmons' performance. Or see it for the up and coming Teller. Enjoy the terrific music, especially Duke Ellington's "Caravan". See it for the talking points about teachers, society and personal greatness. See it for any or all these reasons - just don't tell director Damien Chazelle "good job".
Tension, tension, tension!9/10
After seeing Damien Chazelle's Whiplash - a film the young up-and- coming director wished to do for some time now - being so beautifully realized and brought to life by everyone involved in the project, I was glad and relieved, mainly because I have seen the short film, which was pretty incredible.

I believe that among the most telling facts about a film's fortunes and qualities, is the ability to broaden it's public, but in the same time not forgetting that cinema is not all about commercial success and mass audiences.Or with other words - a film that is not just eye candy and booms and explosions, but also craft, soul, dedication and wits.

Those are some of the things not only the film itself possesses, but the people behind it have in abundance as well.

The upcoming Miles Teller plays the young and dedicated student Andrew Nieman, who has the drive, the ambition to succeed and to be great, which is fine, as long as it doesn't derail your personal life.A lesson the young drummer learns the hard way.

Blind ambition is the thing, that can describe our anti-hero of sorts, Terrence Fletcher a.k.a the brilliant J.K. Simmons, who has a thing for mindeffin' his students to the point of total physical and mental exhaustion and even depression.But he does it for a reason, for the sole purpose of finding the next big, even great, thing in jazz and in music as a whole.The next prodigy, the next "Yardbird" Charlie Parker that will be otherwise lost, if not being pushed to the very limit.

And boy, does J.K. Simmons nails it.Chazelle has done a masterful job in casting the two leads in Teller and Simmons.Their respective acts are full of purpose, full of tension and ultimately terrific.

Expect some awards going in the way of "Whiplash" and look out for Simmons in the Oscars shortlist, that's how good he is in it.And in his own words: "What a shame we wrapped it up in only 19 days".It must have been really fun playing a part like Terrence Fletcher and Simmons completely sold it.

As I said, the best movies are those, that reach out to the most diverse and wide spectrum of audiences, not those, who can connect to a massive number of people, who are representatives of only one specific audience type.And Chazelle has achieved just that with "Whiplash" - a precise, tension-building film, full of beautifully staged pieces and above all else, a love towards music and the challenges it often represents if you want to get to the very top.

The film ended in a big round of applause from the packed theater and I am sure that will be the case a long time from now!

My grade: 9/10
An incredibly powerful film!10/10

Ever had a dream of being a great football player? A great dancer? A great singer? A great musician? Our protagonist has a dream of being a great drummer, a drummer that will be remembered forever. Maybe you are still fighting for your dream. Maybe you have given up on greatness. Greatness doesn't come easily, you need to practice at it. Andrew practices until his hands bleed.

Andrew (Miles Teller) is 19-year old student at a music conservatory in Manhattan. Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is a teacher at the conservatory with a ruthlessly brutal teaching style. After picking Andrew to play in the school band, he pushes Andrew to his limits in order to realize his full potential, at the risk of his humanity.

I had a billiards teacher at one point in my life, who was close to becoming a pro in his craft but a grease fire accident changed all that. His perspective changed, to paraphrase, he realized he was becoming an asshole. He became a teacher of pool instead of becoming a pro player. Through him, I can understand what Terrence Fletcher was trying to instill into Andrew. My teacher would push me a little bit. When he gave me opportunities to show him up, "run the table now," he would tell me, I failed. It's embarrassing when that happens but it's also a learning tool because more work needs to be done. You can't get by on talent alone but it certainly helps. On the other side of it, I saw a little bit of my teacher in Andrew. Losing who you are to perfect something you love. Good thing my teacher realized before it was too late.

I lost myself in the story. It had something to say about not settling and asking more of yourself. Two fantastic performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. Perhaps it will push you to maybe pick up that guitar again, put on your ballet shoes, or hit the gym to bulk up. Whiplash is an incredibly powerful film. And after the final shot cuts to black, the film will stick with you for days.

My expectations: Medium. I did not expect the film to be so powerful for me. Expectations exceeded.

Recommendation: Cinema lovers and casual movie goers, I believe will enjoy this film.

Re-watch value: I can watch this film again and I actually can't wait until it hits distribution.

Memorable: I am still thinking about this film.
An important hardened lesson in resilience and when to stop measuring up to your mentor. Whiplash is a captivating study of ambition.9/10
Taking the festival circuit by storm since its Sundance premiere in January, Whiplash is starting to feel like the underdog that could go far with its crowd-pleasing intensity. On the surface, it's a gritty story about a brutal student-mentor relationship that oversteps boundaries. Underneath, it's a piercing examination of the psyche of unbridled ambition. Whiplash is a film that stops at nothing. As a result, it's the best film I've seen in years, and I say that without hesitation. This is a film that resonates on every single level and every moment counts. If writer/director Damien Chazelle was striving for greatness as much as his protagonist, then he has achieved it.

Miles Teller, who's been steadily growing on me since The Spectacular Now, stars as Andrew Neyman, a 19-year-old aspiring jazz drummer who's pushed and inspired by the abuse and aspirations of his school band leader Fletcher, played by the ferocious J.K. Simmons like we've never seen him before. Chazelle has described the film as an origin story to the jazz musicians of the golden age, and it thrives on the myths of jazz heroes such as Charlie Parker. They're urgently looking for the next Parker, in search of perfection. But with that comes a great irony. The music genre is known as one for freedom of expression but here the jazz is soulless and mechanical, and that clouds the ethical judgment of the characters. Even so, Fletcher is a man who can tell if you have the right tempo within a bar. Although most of the audience for the film may not know much about music including myself, you get a feel for what he's looking for and when someone's wrong even if you don't know why. Simmons is as good as they say he is. He's a force of nature, with a terrifying presence that incites the fear Bryan Cranston achieved with the peak of his Walter White. But it's not a one-note performance. Simmons is still subversive with moments of weakness, insecurity, approachability, and he also sometimes brings in the lightness he's known for in other roles with Jason Reitman, exec producer here.

Even though he's an unlikeable character with nothing nice to say, he's still somewhat endearing and enigmatic, much like R. Lee Ermey's drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket. This demasculinisation through a barrage of insults is a theme explored in Whiplash and it argues whether it's a crime or an 'ends justifying the means' factor of life. It's not just a music film, but also one that adapts to the elements of sports training, war at boot camp and biopic genres with the way it frames its elements. Fletcher is representative of the devil on our shoulders that yells at us that we're not good enough and that symbolic idea resonates deeply for me. His poisonous words are more a part of Andrew's psyche than legitimate coaching techniques. What grabs me about the film is its discussion on artistic perfection, and especially in these intimate and rough sequences of practicing. What is objectively great in art? When is it good enough, and why? It toes a fascinating line. That's why drumming is such an interesting choice for the film to explore because it's so instinctive. Drummers have to make decisions within a fraction of a second and talent can only take you so far. The roaring beat in Whiplash puts your heart in your throat. Teller's performance as Andrew is terrific, one to match Simmons.

Chazelle is committed on expressing the physicality of drumming and Teller captures it exhaustively without feeling contrived. It's the virtuosity of the writing that allows us into Andrew's head however. It's a long road to the top, but the script makes the right decision to allow him to revel in the little moments of success, but then to immediately test him in surprising and involving ways. Each turn of the story shapes his expectations and ambitions and then escalates it to the right point. While the film is a gripping experience nonetheless, in retrospect perhaps it is too bitingly cynical. It does suggest that you have to be deprived of a meaningful relationship to achieve your goals. It does appear to be very anti-positive reinforcement, but perhaps it's merely a statement on the abundant sheltering that the latest generation is enduring. Whiplash is refreshing to see, we all know we wouldn't be resilient enough to take that kind of punishment so it's cathartic to watch Andrew go through it all and see how far he'll go. His frustration, regrets, fear and rage with himself cuts to the core of the human condition as he's pushed further and further.

The technical aspects of the film help it become so stimulating with dizzying closeups tightly edited together and its the stark orange tinted cinematography. It's thoroughly impressive that the film was shot in only 19 days for them to get shots so immaculately timed and performed with all those complicated movements. There's a refreshing brevity to the film with its sharp atmosphere, but it's so rich in emotion, psychological tension and personal subtext. It neither rushes nor drags, on paper nor on screen. It really is a film that lingers in your mind for days, nagging you, like Fletcher over your shoulder. Maybe it'll continue to linger for weeks. I hope so too, especially for Oscar voters. It seems that J.K. Simmons is building momentum to be a lock for Best Supporting Actor at this point. However, Whiplash isn't just a best of year film, nor best of decade. It approaches best of all-time worthy with its identifiable themes of meticulous work ethics, fulfilling aspirations, resilience of the soul, and knowing when to no longer measure yourself to your mentor. I'll take this film with me for a while as a screaming motivator.

Read more @ The Awards Circuit (http://www.awardscircuit.com/)
They could have done better9/10
I saw this about 24 hours ago at the Best of Fest for Sundance, and this last 24 hours I have done little but think about and marvel at this film. I really had zero expectations going in, I heard the buzz surrounding it in town, but knew very little about it as the film began. I have yet to get the words that do my thoughts justice for this movie but I am going to try.

First everything about this film was stellar; casting, writing, acting, directing, music and cinematography all came together to just tell an incredible story. I want to say a bit more about a couple of these aspects.

Acting, first of all I don't know who impressed me more Miles Teller in the lead as Andrew Nieman or JK Simmons playing Band teacher Terence Fletcher. Both did so great that had either been a lesser actor they would have been out shined by the other. Simmons' performance really reminded me of Gunnery Sargent Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, except rather than emotionally destroying and rebuilding marines he was doing it to 18 year old kids. His character could have easily been cartoony and 2 dimensional but Simmons gave him such depth that the whole film I felt compassion for and even understood his motives, even before he lays them out for Nieman in the third act. Two scenes bring you to the core of this character and the line that has intrigued me for 24 hours is "No words in the English language are more dangerous than 'good job.'" (thus why I titled my review as such, sorry I couldn't resist). Then on to Teller's performance, for a younger actor who I haven't seen in much I must say he played his role like a seasoned actor. His performance just wrapped me up and to find out he did much of the drumming himself is insane. Whilst watching some of the intense scenes I felt like I was watching him be executed, and other times it feels like the fight in Rocky, you feel like you are just watching him get demolished, except all of this is emotional rather than the easier physical. Whether it is the discouragement, the socially awkwardness, the single parent household, the internal conflict, the hubris, the arrogance, and at times the mental torture that he put himself through, all just blew me away. Teller reminded me of a much much more talented John Cusack and had the charisma and electricity to connect to the audience.

The one other thing I must commend is the writing, so often you kind of know where a movie is headed but this movie stayed very unpredictable and just when you think for certain how a scene or sequence of scenes will play out they take a hard left and keeps you off balance (in a good way). It was so refreshing, a few times I thought the bow was on the film but then something disrupts how "it should go or end".

Sorry if I rambled, perhaps after thinking on it more I can get a more focused review, needless to say this film is a must-see when it gets a broad release. Great job to all involved and congrats on winning the award at Sundance, you certainly earned it.

One last thing if this gets attention in wide release this could see a heightened interest in Jazz, this is certainly a film that can make even the not-so musically inclined want to throw on a Jazz record and just drown in it.