After not hearing about it until the Oscars, I picked up Whiplash while at the store the other night. Of all the best picture nominees, this one caught my attention the most. I didn’t really know what to expect from it, but it seemed like a promising film. Holy fucking cow, Fangirls. This movie was a spectacle of intensity and unexpected amazement. It seriously left me completely speechless.
Until now, of course. It has taken me a while to settle down from the rushing feelings of this film. I was so tense while watching it, my neck was stiff the rest of the day. The extremes of this movie are so powerful and profound, I just couldn’t even conjure up much of a reaction until now (a week after I’ve watched it).
Who knew a movie about jazz could be so severe and intense? I certainly did not. I was told while watching the Oscars that the movie was about a student of a prestigious music conservatory with an abusive instructor. That was what it was about, but I had pictured it going very differently. I thought maybe this man was very inviting, him & the student became friends, but then the man unleashes a side of him full of violent physical abuse. However, the abuse was a whole other level of intimidation, teasing, and force that I could not have been prepared for.
Andrew Neiman begins school at the Shaffer Conservatory in New York as a hopeful jazz percussionist. There, he is enlisted into the studio band as an alternative core drummer by Terrence Fletcher, the conductor. Fletcher is known for being intense, but it seems like no one really understand what goes on in that room until their in it. Fletcher puts Neiman behind the set to play a challenging tune called “Whiplash”. When Neiman fails to keep up with Fletcher’s tempo, he hurls a chair at Neiman, slaps him in the face, mocks, insults & humiliates him in front of the band. However, Neiman is determined to impress Fletcher. So practices for hours on end, until is hands are dripping with blood all over his drum set. He even breaks all social ties and breaks up with his girlfriend, for fear that she’ll get in his way with drumming.
After grueling practices and more abuse, Andrew is made the core drummer for studio band. While traveling to one competition, Andrew’s bus breaks down, threatening to make him late for the competition. Determined to get there, he rents a car, but forgets his drumsticks at the rental place. With only minutes until he has to be on stage, and determined to prove himself to Fletcher, he speeds back to the dealership to get his drum sticks. On the way back, just a few blocks from the theater, his car is hit by a truck in an intersection. He crawls out from his car, upside down, and still runs to the theater, badly injured and bleeding from the head. He arrives on stage, in a blood soaked suit, and proceeds to play. But instead of impressing Fletcher, he fails to keep tempo because of his injuries. Fletcher stops the band, and tells Andrew he’s “done.” Furious, Andrew tackles Fletcher on stage and is then dragged away by his band mates.
After being expelled from Shaffer a few days later, Andrew meets with a lawyer representing the family of a former student of Fletcher’s. Fletcher had told them a few weeks prior that Sean Casey, the former student, had died in a car accident. The lawyer reveals that Casey actually hung himself, having suffered through severe depression & anxiety after being a student of Fletcher’s. Reluctantly, Andrew agrees to anonymously testify against Fletcher, which results in him being fired.
After a few months, Andrew finds Fletcher at a jazz club. They end up having a drink, and talking about Fletcher’s ways of teaching. Fletcher tells Andrew that he is so hard on his students so that they might achieve a new level of greatness, and become something of a legend. That’s what he had done with Sean Casey. He then invites Andrew to play at a jazz festival with his new band. Later at the concert, while they’re on stage, Fletcher reveals that he knew it was Andrew who testified against him. As revenge, Fletcher starts leading the band in a song that Andrew has not rehearsed nor been given the sheet music for. His drumming is a mess, and he leaves the stage humiliated. But then, he returns and interrupts Fletcher speaking to the audience by beginning to play “Caravan,” a piece that Fletcher had previously tortured Andrew with at Shaffer. He plays for a while, then the rest of the band joins him, and shockingly, Fletcher joins in conducting, too. Andrew then ends the song with an extremely elaborate drum solo lasting nearly six minutes. It ends with Fletcher giving him a nod of approval.
All of this movie was a lot to handle, but the ending adds tension 10 fold. You have no idea what going to happen at the end of this solo. I wasn’t going to be surprised if Fletcher took out a gun and just shot Andrew right on stage. This guy is terrifying. That’s thanks to the incredible performance by J.K. Simmons. I’ve seen a great deal of his movies, and this is one of his best performances yet in my opinion. It was just jaw dropping, mind blowing, I think I might cry good. Of course, Miles Teller, who played Andrew, was up on that same level is well. What really made this movie was the incredible acting, and the beautiful directing from Damien Chazelle, who both directed and wrote the film. I just want to kiss them all on the forehead and tell them how wonderful of a job they did.
Though I’ve just summarized most of the movie, I think every one should watch this film. Its important on so many levels. From Andrew’s perspective, from Fletcher’s perspective, there is so much to learn. So grab some treats, and a stress ball, and watch this movie. It’s motherfucking brilliant.
All images and characters depicted are copyright of their respective owners.