When an ambitious young jazz drummer is given the chance to prove himself by joining an elite orchestra, he is pushed to his limits by an uncompromising conductor. Will he crack under the pressure or does he have what it takes to be one of the greats?
Whiplash is told from the perspective of Andrew, played by Miles Teller. As a character, Andrew is arrogant and fails to see the importance of any aspect of his life that does not involve music. He is also hypercritical of those around him, seeing their achievements as insignificant because they will not result in fame and fortune.
Andrew’s narrow minded views on the world could very easily have made him unlikeable and hard to root for, but Teller cleverly uses body language to highlight the characters awkwardness which helps provide some context for his close mindedness.
Despite following Andrew, Whiplash is really a two man show. J.K. Simmons does an excellent job bringing Fletcher, the uncompromising and occasionally cruel conductor, to life. Simmons did an amazing job exploring the complex character who has charged himself with creating the next great musician. His performance as Fletcher quickly became the most exciting thing in the movie as he dominates every scene he’s in.
The biggest theme in the film is the exploration of talent and the drive that is required to reach greatness. This struggle elevates as the film goes on. In the beginning, it almost seemed as though everything was coming too easy for Andrew, but he then had to overcome obstacles to keep it. At one point his determination became comically out of proportion with reality, but it’s a minor misstep in a film which is otherwise very realistic.
Living in a world were jazz music isn’t valued above all else, as some of the characters in the film seem to think it is, made it hard not to devalue the importance of Andrew’s journey. It’s one thing to want to be the best at what you do, but Andrew is vocal about how this path will make him world famous and keep his memory alive. He never learns that jazz is a now a niche market.
Though he doesn’t learn the lesson, Andrew does see that his friends and family don’t share his passion for jazz. He simply chooses to look down on them and move on, but the audience is given a glance at the theme that could have been better explored.
All things considered, the movie is paced excellently. There were no scenes that felt too short or too long. The entire run time was used to its fullest potential. The ending, though a bit sudden, was perfect for the story being told.
Whiplash is not always an easy watch; it isn’t a feel good film that will have you whistling a tune as you leave the cinema. It has a strong narrative and a story to tell, which is worth watching even if you don’t care about jazz music.
What do you think? Are you excited to see Whiplash? Have you ever tried to learn an instrument? Do you have a jazz music obsession? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.