HOLLYWOOD—Being musically inclined is no easy task, “Whiplash” teaches that lesson in more ways than one can imagine. It’s a movie that starts off with a bang and ends that way. Miles Teller is absolutely fascinating as musical prodigy Andrew Neyman or so he thinks.
He gets a hard dose of reality, when he meets one of the greatest and most feared musical teachers at Shaffer Conservatory music school, Dr. Terrence Fletcher. Fletcher is portrayed with unbelievable talent by J.K. Simmons. When Fletcher stumbles upon Neyman playing the drums he grabs his attention. Jazz is Neyman’s niche, but he soon learns the talent he believes that he possesses is not as great as he thinks.
Fletcher is indeed the teacher from hell; not just verbally, but physically. Not only does he personally attack his students, he throws chairs, he hurls brutal insults and belittles his students in ways that one can never imagine. Simmons is disturbingly magnificent in the role. One minute this guy appears to be sincere and encouraging to Andrew, the next he berates him in a degree that is unfathomable.
It begs to argue the question rather teachers inflict unbelievable lessons to their students to make them reach their fullest potential or to wield their authority. Director and writer Damien Chazelle brings to the screen a tale that is so intimate, so explosive I’ve never been so drawn to a movie in my life. I wasn’t just excited to watch the movie because of the buzz, it’s because the narrative is so authentic. The way Chazelle choreographed that scene where Fletcher literally causes three drummers to bleed from their fingers to get the right note was phenomenal.
The more we learn about Andrew and Fletcher we see the dynamic between the two. It’s almost a treat to see Andrew, who is a bit pompous and self-righteous realize at any given moment his talent can be taken away from him. Our protagonist needs a bit of a dose of reality. He’s charming at first to Nicole (Melissa Benoist), but when he realizes Fletcher wants perfection on all costs, he belittles her in a way that is absolutely haunting.
I can’t remember the last time so many F-bombs were dropped in a movie; it might have been “The Wolf of Wall Street.” “Whiplash” is such a treat because it takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster with both Andrew Neyman and Terrence Fletcher. At one moment you’re rooting for the guys, another second you despise them. Then out the blue you become conflicted with the level of empathy from the characters. Do they really care about others, or are they so self-absorbed they fail to see the hurt they’re creating.
“Whiplash” is not just a movie about music, but about people who strive for perfection and the cost of achieving it. The final 10 minutes of this movie will literally blow your mind. Trust me!