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 endlessly attempts to impress the egomaniacal, intimidating, and verbally devouring studio jazz band leader Terrence Fletcher, played by JK Simmons. Neiman is a talented drummer 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 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 their core — the voice lingering upon your shoulders, whispering in 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, filmed in only 19 days, has some first rate performances that feel like stunningly complex character studies more than anything. The film is comprised of characters who speak vigorous dialogue complemented 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 genre, “Whiplash”’s musical arrangements, editing team, and sound department all certainly create the feeling that no other music-based film of the 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 the awards season to “Whiplash,” a 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 in their craft of choice. The romanticization of an art form like jazz, which paved the way for the modern advancements in the music industry that were to come.