Movie Review: Whiplash

Whiplash

Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman in "Whiplash" (Photo courtesy of tonygentilcore.com)

by Mike Reistetter

“Whiplash” is an ingenious salute to the intensity of musical craft, with performances so embedded in realism that you will enter the astonishing third act forgetful of the fact that you are watching a fictional story unfold.

Miles Teller plays Andrew Neiman, a 19 year old student at a musical arts college who attempts endlessly to impress the egomaniacal, intimidating, and verbally devouring studio jazz band leader Terrence Fletcher, played by JK Simmons. Andrew is a talented drummer that is constantly degraded and ridiculed by the likes of Fletcher, who justifies his manipulative teaching style by claiming he pushes his students beyond their own potentials.

Teller, with conviction and heart, captures the passion of a young adult with an enormous lack of self-confidence. So much so that he is misguided into believing he deserves the verbal abuse exhorted upon him by the overly demeaning and imposing antagonist, to which JK Simmons brought such a uniquely villainous personality.

Simmons, in an Oscar-worthy performance, reminds potential viewers of that boss, coach, or any other superior authority figure in their life that really dug deep at the core of their conscience: the voice lingering upon your shoulders, whispering into your ears, acting as both as the angel you are trying to please and the devil you are trying to conquer.

“Whiplash,” the sophomore effort by Damien Chazelle, miraculously filmed in only 19 days, had some first rate performances of complexly troubled characters. Characters who spoke vigorous dialogue that was complimented beautifully with the quintessential score for a topic manner so often covered in past: with the longing to shed presumptions or preconceived notions about this particular film genre, “Whiplash”’s musical arrangements, editing team, and sound department all certainly create the feeling that no other musical film of this century has accomplished yet.

In an age dominated by special effects, CGI filming techniques, and IMAX production practices, don’t be surprised if some box office smashes covering super heroes or other surreal plots lose out in the sound and editing categories of awards season to “Whiplash,” a musical masterpiece dedicated to the nostalgic neurosis of music at the root of its precision. As one of not only the year’s, but the decade’s top films, “Whiplash” pays tribute to the contemporary amateurs who try to model their quest for brilliance after the founding fathers of jazz who paved the way for modern music to take form.