Whiplash (2014) - review

Door Janreviews gepubliceerd op Sunday 01 May 17:01

“Whiplash” introduces us to Andrew Neiman, a freshman at the Schaffer Conservatory in NYC, who aspires to be one of the greatest jazz drummers. Terence Fletcher, a brilliant yet intimidating teacher, invites him to be the alternative for his core drummer. As soon as the class starts, Andrew realises that Fletcher not only looks intimidating, but actually intimidates his students. In spite of being ridiculed by him in front of his new class, Andrew remains in Fletcher’s band. Can Fletcher turn Andrew into one of the greats?

The highlight of this film is J.K. Simmons as Fletcher. He is outstanding as the tough, wise-cracking and, at times, terrifying conductor. Fletcher is the kind of teacher who demands the very best of his students and will tear them down if he knows that they can do it. His R-rated taunts in this film reminded me of his role in “Spider-man”, but this time they were not funny; they were mostly awfully crude and they made me feel bad for his students. I actually thought most of his jeers were improvised, but I read on IMDb that he only improvised one line. That proves the brilliance of the actor’s performance and the script. Luckily we don’t meet Fletcher’s family. I read that they cut a brief scene showing him sit in his apartment with a picture of his family on the wall - best decision this film made. I wanted his character to have depth, but I didn't want to really sympathise with him. There are two scenes in which Simmons displays great dramatic acting: when he has to deliver bad news to the band and when he is talking to someone in a bar.

As for the rest of the film, it really benefits from its soundtrack. The songs they play are so uplifting that you are yearning for the next one. Besides the scenes in which Andrew interacts with Fletcher, there really isn’t a lot of substance to the film. It felt a bit much at times. There are a couple of scenes in which Andrew is very emotional behind his drum kit and they are all quite awkward to watch. The aftermath of a certain important event is laughably unrealistic. It is supposed to be the apex of the drama, but it just makes me shake me head in disbelief. 

The story had many ups and downs. It started really strong: what Fletcher says to Andrew as he leaves the room in the first scene had me in stitches. After that introduction, the scene in which Fletcher embarrasses Andrew is absolutely impressive. Once Andrew started to practise maniacally, the story went downhill. Andrew’s brief relationship with Melissa Benoist’s character provided some interesting dialogue and some good casual acting, but once the certain important event happens, the story appeared to crash. I was literally yelling “NO!” at the screen multiple times. Around fifteen minutes before the ending, the film took a swift turn for the better and my jaw dropped in awe. But then the story ended in the way I did not want it to.

“Whiplash” is not a must-watch, but it’s very entertaining. J.K. Simmons is the reason to watch. If you enjoy jazz music and great acting, this is a film for you. Close your eyes as soon as the final song starts and let it engulf you so you’ll degust the great song and so you’ll miss the last bend in the storyline.

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