Published on October 24th, 2014 | by Neil Jordan0
Greetings & Salutations Fellow Movie Viewers!
Well, I must’ve done something to incur this kind of karma recently … My editors have been assigning me some excellent films this past month and this one is another on that string …
intensity, drive, and jazz combine to form the synopsis of this latest film. ‘Whiplash’ is a dramatic ‘jazz thriller’ which premiered at 2014 Sundance film festival back in January and instantly received several awards and critical acclaim before hit the theaters earlier this October.
Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, ‘Whiplash’ stars Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser, Jayson Blair, Austin Stowell, and Kavita Patil.
At a music conservatory where the competition could be compared to a ‘dog-eat-dog’ philosophy, Andrew Neyman (Teller) is a promising young drummer, willing to sacrifice his personal life and nearly everything else with his ultimate goal of becoming one of the great jazz drummers in memory. Having fallen under the eye of Terence Fletcher (Simmons), an almost insane and ruthless music conductor who notices the young music prodigy’s talent and becomes the drummer’s mentor.
Assigning Neyman as 2nd then 1st chair, Fletcher at first calmly nurtures the drummer prodigy but then pulls a complete 180 berating Neyman and very nearly assaulting him with a drum cymbal and reassigns him to 2nd chair. Later, at a jazz competition where the 1st chairs music was lost and Neyman ‘saves the day’ by playing the entire music set from memory Fletcher assigns him to 1st chair as a reward only to reassign him a few days later and replace him with another ‘supposed’ drummer prodigy. All the while, Neyman is devoting all his energies and thought to his drumming to the point of boarding on a nervous breakdown and injury …. even ending his relationship with his girlfriend. Throughout all these events Fletcher continues his villainous and tyrannical treatment of Neyman all in an effort to inspire him to realize his true potential …. the potential that Fletcher believes Neyman possess.
I mentioned ‘intensity’ and ‘drive’ at the beginning of this review …. Those two key words ….
are what this film created. The drive of Neyman and the intensity of his mentor Fletcher ….
Perhaps it’s the other way around? When the movie ends, you left with the same feeling you might imagine if you tried a 5 shot espresso. This film shows how much music (in this case jazz) can affect an individual. How anyone’s true passion can push someone beyond what is would be described as normal.
Teller and Simmons had the rare good fortunes as far as the casting in which they could both be the lead actors in this film where the intensity is magnified by the reaction of the other’s volatile attitude from one minute to the next. It was like watching a violent chemical reaction unfold in a science lab. You almost found yourself wanting to duck for cover when Neyman and Fletcher started fuming at each other. At the apex of this volatile relationship was the goal of realizing Neyman’s potential again, it was all about the drive and the intensity.
Despite the films praise, it has not been without criticism …. In recent edition of Slate, an internet culture and current affairs magazine, Forrest Wickman accused the film of distorting and misinterpreting an anecdote regarding legendary jazz composer and saxophonist Charlie Parker. Both main characters Fletcher and Neyman mention that drummer Jo Jones threw a cymbal at the teenaged Parker’s head as retaliation for Parker’s supposedly losing the beat of the composition they were performing in Count Basie’s band during a 1930s performance. According to Wickman, “Jones didn’t throw the cymbal at Parker’s head. He threw it at the floor near his feet, ‘gonging’ him off. It wasn’t an episode of physical abuse.” Jones was upset at Parker’s failure to change key with the rest of the band NOT losing the beat.
Alas, there is a an occurrence of the dreaded ‘artistic license’ in the film. And although it’s disappointing to see such an excellent film ‘alter history’ in order to better meld with the film’s script/premise the movie was so well done that I kind of let that slip by. If the performances by Teller and Simmons aren’t enough to convince you … At least go for the music! If you’re into ‘real’ jazz and not the ‘Starbucks Coffeehouse Crap’ that J.K. Simmons refers to in the film, then ‘Whiplash’ is definitely a film worth checking out. Definitely NOT one for the kids as there is A LOT of foul adult language in the film. Once again, I’m going to give this film 4 out of 5 stars.
On behalf of my fellows at ‘Skewed & Reviewed’, this is your friendly neighborhood freelance photographer “The CameraMan” saying thanks for reading …. and we’ll see you at the movies …..