Whiplash

RATED-(R)-107-MIN-2014

                                              

                                                  “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than: good job.”

 

 

 

There is a pivotal scene in the movie (Whiplash), where the brutal, drill sergeant-like instructor: Fletcher, played by (J.K. Simmons), explains to a young student he has tormented: Andrew (Myles Teller), why he acts the way he does to the musicians he is teaching. Whether you understand him better or not, he makes it very clear why he does it, and how he justifies his horrible behavior and actions. He makes no apologies, and “Fuck You,” if you don’t get it. If Charlie Parker hadn’t ever had a cymbal thrown at his head after screwing up, he may never have turned out to be “Bird.” How many apples did this jerk get?

Whiplash, is one of the best films of the year 2014. It’s not so much about music, although there are many fantastic scenes depicting very talented people playing complex jazz pieces for their instructor, as it is about a person in a position of power, who breaks down and pushes people to their limit, with the hopes of finding greatness. All of us have had a Fletcher in our lives in some sort of way.

There is a certain uneasy chaos in the film, of students rushing to class, the talk of ruthless competition, and the prepping of instruments before playing, that is conveyed so well in this movie. The director of the film, the very young:(Damien Chazelle) sure seems like he knows this territory well. This feels real, and the sweat and blood that sprays, is palatable. The beginning of the film, starts with a simple hit of a snare…then crescendos to a frenzied roll.

Andrew is a first year student at a prestigious music school, where the infamous Terrance Fletcher teaches. All of the students fear him, but they all want to be picked to be in his band, as he strives for perfection, brilliance, and Fletcher’s group competes in the jazz competitions for the school, which all of the students strive for. When Andrew is selected by Fletcher to be in the group as the second drummer, he is thrilled. He tells his low key teacher dad: Jim ( a wonderful and sedate Paul Reiser), who raised Andrew alone after his mom left soon after birth, that he is excited to get this chance. Teller and Reiser have some very touching moments as father and son, although a family dinner with his jock cousins and his aunt and uncle quickly turns nasty, when they seem to be ignoring Andrew and his aspirations of drumming greatness. Andrews pricky,snob side, comes out, and he lashes at his cousins. It is a very good scene, that shows you Andrews slow transformation into something else.

He also meets cute at the theater he frequents with his dad, the concession girl: Nicole (Melissa Benoist), whom he has noticed, and finally musters up the strength to ask out, and she says yes. A misstep with her, will later come to a head of sorts; another victim of genius, I guess. Things seem to be going just ducky for him….until his first session at Fletcher’s practice. From then on, it is a full assault from him on Andrew’s confidence, ego, and really sense of worth, of any kind. Does he think Andrew can't cut it ? He preys upon his students fears of failure, attacks their parents, their ethnicity, that they are fat,and has them so scared shitless, that they can't tell whether they are in tune or not; really anything to shake and break them down. Simmons is remarkable in this role, as it could have, at any point gone over the top into ridiculousness, but it never does. You know he has a point, but does he have to be such an asshole about it? Teller stands toe to toe with him, and it is quite a jump from the soft spoken, heartbroken young man I had seen and admired in the wonderful film: (Rabbit Hole).

If you do not like jazz even just a tiny bit, you will still find the music mesmerizing, as the editing of all those session and competition scenes are really rather brilliantly executed. The music is exhilarating, and the payoff at the end, has one wonderful and nasty surprise, followed by, I think, what would really happen, after getting to know these two characters, in this riveting film that you should see. This is an excellent film.

 

watch the trailer:http://youtu.be/aHDEZXoh4-c