Drumming Into Submission
A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Whiplash is one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen and I mean that in a good way. A Sundance hit, the film sports an incredible performance from Miles Teller and a strong, albeit overdone one from J. K. Simmons. The power of the film is how strongly it carries its emotions while not flinching for even a single second. It’s a visceral, emotionally raw film glaring at the power of obsession and the sheer power of extremely tough love. The film follows Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller), a gifted young jazz drummer who wants to become one of the greats. He enrolls at a music conservatory, where a professional by the name of Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons) uses his hardcore teaching techniques to try and whip him into shape.
The central question of the film seems to be whether the adversity that pushes you to greatness is actually worth it. The sheer trauma that Andrew suffers through at Fletcher’s hands goes beyond what typically can account for tough love. There’s obscenity and physical abuse involved that pushes and pushes and pushes Andrew to the very precipice of madness. Some might argue that there’s a thin line between being artistic and being mad. In Whiplash, that line is blurred. The harsh treatment of Fletcher arguably works but to what extent has it damaged Andrew? The film seemingly takes the side of Fletcher and his horrifyingly harsh methodology. Yet it leaves enough open-ended that you truly have to wonder how deeply his student’s psyche was affected by this insanely humiliating ordeal that constantly risked pushing him over the top. Yes, Miles succeeds in his endeavors and seemingly is placed upon the path of greatness. But what has he lost in the process of doing so?
Miles Teller absolutely kills it in the role and he brings an insane amount of catharsis to a character constantly pursuing perfection, to the degree where memories of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan began to swim around my mind. J. K. Simmons has been receiving a ton of praise for his performance. I know I’m in the minority here, but I found that so often Simmons would take his performance so over the top I felt as if I wasn’t watching a real human being. Fletcher at times seemed so monstrous that the film was taking his character and pushing him onto my head with a forceful push. The character’s zealous moments simply didn’t do it for me and it weakened the entire film as a whole. But Whiplash despite of that is a tour de force of a film, a remarkably stunning debut for writer-director Damien Chazelle. Tom Cross deserves special praise here for his absolutely phenomenal editing that makes the film tie together so well. Perhaps the most telling and cathartic moment of the film is when Andrew’s father watches his son perform for the first time, a stunning smile breaking across his face as a bit of haunting spirit billows within his eyes.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Damien Chazelle
Produced by: David Lancaster, Michel Litvak, Jason Blum
Written by: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J. K. Simmons
Music: Justin Hurwitz
Cinematography: Sharone Meir
Editing: Tom Cross
Production Company: Blumhouse Productions, Bold Films, Right of Way Films
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Running Time: 106 minutes
Release Dates: October 10, 2014
Image Courtesy: Joblo