This film is receiving quite a lot of Oscars buzz, and rightly so. Directed by Damien Gizelle, Whiplash (2014) is a fast paced example of the perfect cinematic mix between excitement and frustration. Whiplash tells the story of Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), who has dreams of becoming the best drummer in the world. One day at college, he is practicing his drums and is noticed by the most infamous teacher at his college, Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons); whose perfectionism and skill as a conductor is overshadowed by his violent methods of motivating his band. What follows is an impeccably illustrated and impressively acted tale of obsession and pain.
Here are the Oscars that Whiplash has been nominated for: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (for J. K. Simmons), Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Writing for an Adapted Screenplay, and last but not least, Best Picture. Funnily enough, all of these categories are my favourite things about this film.
J. K. Simmons is one of my favourite actors. I don’t really think about him much, but whatever he’s in, I’m guaranteed to enjoy. I particularly loved him in the HBO prison drama television show Oz (1997-2003); his scary performance as the neo-Nazi Vernon Schillinger still freaks me out to this day. In a way, his performance as Terence Fletcher in this reminded me of his performance in Oz – raw, overtly aggressive, manipulative, and above all, totally watchable. J. K. Simmons surprises me with every one of his performances, and this is no exception. The ‘twist’ at the end seems so simple, but it’s Simmons’ communication of it that will have your jaw dropping to the floor. As for Miles Teller, he was never really on my radar, but he is amazing in this. He exudes the perfect combination between borderline pathological focus and obsession, and mildly anti-social behaviour. Teller and Simmons interact with one another flawlessly and each of their conflictual moments was so tense.
I love jazz music and I think this film visually represented the genre so well. Each time a big band is playing a song (such as the titular ‘Whiplash’, composed by Hank Levy, which I now can’t stop listening to) the editing is so ridiculously perfect it’s not even funny. The music is brought to life on screen through quick cuts, focusing on the pure concentration on the musicians’ faces, cutting in tune with music and sweeping shots that allow the viewer to take in the whole experience of playing in a jazz band. Meanwhile, the sound editing is also so great, with an emphasis on the rhythm of Neiman’s drums and the brass tones of the jazz band in which he plays. Both the film and sound editing is perfect in every scene and I can’t find one fault with either. Creatively, this film is perfectly expressive, with direction that also matches the tone of the music and the tension in each scene. The editing is probably one of my favourite things about it.
Meanwhile, the script is stellar. J. K. Simmons’ dialogue is particularly strong, and the perfect balance between hilarious and awkwardly horrible. I genuinely loved every scene he was in, because you never knew what kind of amazing profanity would erupt forth from his face, some of which was so funny (even though it would technically constitute verbal abuse). The way the story flows and develops is great. The film takes its time, and although it isn’t the most temporally sweeping of tales, what it does tell you about the short span of time in which the events occur is packaged up perfectly. The conflict of the story is almost deceptively simple, and that’s what’s great about it – due to Fletcher’s manipulative and abusive nature, you’ll be second guessing his actions long after the film has finished. This is such a great film to discuss with fellow moviegoers because everyone will have a different opinion on his actions.
I really, really loved Whiplash. I quite like watching films that make you feel uncomfortable and tense, and that is exactly where this film succeeds – the tension that it creates is almost unbearable at times, causing a visceral reaction that so many other films try and fail to do. J. K. Simmons puts in an electric and truly scary performance as Terence Fletcher, whereas Miles Teller is also so great and now a face that I’ll be watching out for. If you’ve ever performed in a band or choir with an obsessive conductor or teacher (which I have), this will be a really awkward and uncomfortable viewing experience. But the story is too good, the performances are amazing, and the creative elements are perfect every time. Fingers crossed that this one wins a bunch of awards because it is truly deserving, and it’s well worth paying for a ticket to see on the big screen.
Is it worth paying for a ticket?: YES.
Watch the trailer here.
It is worth buying at least two tickets for in my book! 😉 Recently rewatched this and it holds up just as well compared to the first time I saw it. J.K.Simmons is awesome (and funny): “Are you one of those single tear people?”
Loved that part! I really want to see this again and would be more than happy to pay for it. Such a great film.
Everyone seems to love this one. It has certainly grabbed some more attention at the Oscars.
It’s so great, the attention is more than warranted in my opinion! One of those films that ticks all the boxes.
Simmons and Teller add a lot of dimensions to these characters. Characters who make this tale a lot more compelling than your standard underdog story. Good review.
Thanks Dan! 🙂 Simmons’ performance was practically perfect. Looking forward to seeing how he goes at the Oscars.
So glad you loved it! Such an intense, great movie. I personally award Norton for Birdman but JK is gonna be more than a worthy winner
I still haven’t seen Birdman and must do so before the Oscars! I love Edward Norton, so definitely looking forward to seeing his performance, particularly if it’s as good as Simmons’!
My heart was defiantly pumping with this one. The last scene was nail biting and so awesome. Great post for a great film!
Thanks heaps! 😀 Those final moments were so intense, such a perfect ending yet I still wanted to see more!
That’s what makes a film great, I guess… Great review!
Whiplash is phenomenal. Glad you loved it too! It’s one of my favorite movies of 2014.
I would definitely say it’s one of my 2014 favourites now, too. Absolutely loved it!
Great review! Went to see it today and I was sweating by the end haha. Nice to see some more love for JK too!
Thanks heaps Jim! That ending was pretty stressful! JK Simmons is so amazing though, I do hope he gets the recognition that he most definitely deserves.
Excellent review. I am seriously looking forward to this one!
Thanks Zoe, it’s such an amazing film, looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it!
Oh, Hell YES!!!
Such an awesome film! 😀
What a fantastic film! Definitely one of the best of 2014. I can’t think of anything about this film I didn’t like.
It’s funny that you mention Simmons’ role in ‘Oz.’ There were times I thought his character here was basically Schillinger with a talent for jazz and a better vocabulary.
I also loved how there were around five different points where the movie could have ended, and each would have given the film a completely different message. It really fit the theme as well, in terms of pushing yourself beyond the limit.
Thanks so much! 🙂 That’s such a great point about the film pushing its own boundaries, I didn’t notice that whilst watching it but on reflection that’s such a clever way of structuring the film. Now I want to watch it again!
I love this film. Simmons is ferociously good here and I’m pleased he’s been recognised with an Oscar nomination.
That’s the perfect decription of Simmons’ performance – ‘ferociously good’. He was downright scary at times, and absolutely fierce.
I cannot WAIT to see this! Crossing my fingers that it comes to a theater somewhere here in New Zealand. Sigh… movies take a loooong time to get released here.
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