Movie Review: Whiplash (2014)

Posted: August 29, 2015 in Drama
Tags: ,

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Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) wants to be one of the truly legendary drummers in jazz music.  He goes to the Shaffer Conservatory of music to realize his dream.  Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) a demanding, abusive teacher, notices Andrew and takes him under his wing.  Fletcher asks Andrew to practice and Andrew shows up late.  Andrew seems to be destined to be a backup drummer in the jazz band until Andrew loses the music of a fellow drummer, Carl Tanner. (Nate Lang) With that bit of fate on his side, and a lot of hard work, Andrew becomes a core drummer with the Shaffer Jazz Band, and they win first place in a competition.

But Fletcher is not satisfied, he brings in Ryan Connelly (Austin Stowell) to compete with Andrew, and again Andrew has to prove himself.  He is given the core drummer position again, after a grueling all-night rehearsal, and again is late for the show.  Does Andrew make the show in time?  Does he stay as the core drummer despite Fletcher’s tyrannical tutelage?

I wanted to like this movie, but everything in in this movie is either a cliché or contrived, the quiet guy, overlooked by everyone who has an inner drive to be the best.  That is a cliché. Bleeding hands when playing an instrument are a cliché, the abusive teacher is a cliché, the brief romance is a cliché  and there’s a plot twist, and the rest of the story is so contrived that it would never happen, and then on top of everything, there a horrible ending.  What bothers me most is I didn’t like either main character, Andrew, who is supposed to be the sympathetic character comes off as a privileged, pampered, preppy. Forget about Fletcher, he’s a caricature of every egomaniacal, boorish, teacher that anyone has ever had.  Jazz music is not that torturous.  But this movie is.  The jazz music is great, save yourself some money, and buy a jazz album, skip this movie.

Miles Teller is being touted as a great actor and I was looking for a great performance, but between this movie, That Awkward Moment, The Fantastic Four and Divergent, the resume is not great.  I love J.K.  Simmons, he’s one of the best character actors in America, but he plays one note in this movie, volcanically, rabidly angry teacher, and there’s nothing else, no backstory, no exposition to explain why he is the way he is, just  pure, vituperative anger.  He won an Oscar, but this is not his best performance.

The blame for this awful movie lies with Damien Chazelle, he wrote and directed this movie, I don’t know maybe he had a bad experience in school, but he gave me a bad experience watching this movie, the direction was not that great, unless you consider close ups of musical instruments a great film.  He does not get great performances from the actors and he’s too young to tell Simmons to tone his performance down.  The script’s deficiencies are detailed above.

Whiplash:  Give this dog a collar.

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