Movie Review: “Whiplash” is Right on Time
Whiplash is such an indie film; low budget and modestly produced. Despite this minor detail, the film is so intense, masterful, and such fun that it rivals the big blockbusters of 2014. It is a pivotal tale of obsession and drive that will make you smile, cringe, and laugh out loud.
I used to dislike Miles Teller. His smug disposition and anger in “Divergent” made me really hate him as a villain, but I guess that’s the point. This movie will make you feel that Miles could have quite an acting career on his hands. Miles stars as Andrew Neiman, a student at Shaffer Conservatory who aspires to be the next Buddy Rich. His drive and passion for drumming makes you feel for his journey in becoming the best. Miles exudes a blend of confidence, motivation, and heart that will have you cheering for him.
J.K. Simmons is a top contender for Best Supporting Actor as his electrifying performance borderlines on insanity. J.K. plays Terrence Fletcher, Miles’ demanding conductor at Shaffer. J.K. was guided by the director of the film to play the antagonist as more than a human being, but a monster. J.K. delivers, and I found myself several times laughing as a defense mechanism. Terrence’s intensity is meant to bring out the best in his students, and it makes the collision between Andrew and Terrance all the better. Andrew is unstoppable in his passion as a drummer and Terrance is immovable as the harsh conductor for Shaffer. After all, there is a reason for the title of the film.
I love jazz music, so I am little biased in saying that the music had me literally tapping my feet. I will also say that my knowledge of music could fill a harmonica. So, for me to enjoy the film, Whiplash went beyond the music technicalities (which are still present) and immersed the audience in the harmony of music.
Much of the music is from existing compositions- Whiplash, Caravan, etc. Justin Hurwitz, the composer of the film, does a great job conveying the sense of a big swing band. Miles’ performance also heightens the brilliance of the sound. His showmanship as a drummer makes the sound mixing so much sweeter since it matches the intensity and beauty of his drumming. I cannot do justice with words here concerning the music. Just go see the film.
The opening shot of the film has Andrew Neiman framed in the practice hall. It dollies up to him slowly as he begins to strum. It’s so simple but it makes the point of the film from the beginning that music is the key. Andrew is the kind of individual who would get up early to practice. And then, Fletcher enters and so begins the story…
My favorite shot of the film is the back-and-forth between Andrew and Terrence. This is the finale of the film, the big moment. Andrew is on the drums giving his best. The camera swings over to Terrance, who is motioning for a higher tempo. The camera shifts back to Andrew, who is sweating under the pressure, but picks up the beat. Then the camera goes back to Terrence, who motions for more. It is this give and take, this back and forth that is very indicative of jazz. It is that ebb and flow that makes the film phenomenal. Music is the key, and the shots frame that point of reference.
The locations around New York are varied enough to give the impression that Andrew lives in the city. Andrew’s flat, the conservatory, the concert hall at the finale of the film- all point to a serve as a means to display the music. Everything surrounding Andrew and Terrence Fletcher, the harsh lighting and the plain sets, create a sense of contrast. You don’t really care about where Andrew is because his drum skills are ridiculous. You aren’t really paying attention to the club scene where Fletcher plays because you are bracing yourself for the confrontation between Andrew and Fletcher.
Whiplash may not be for everyone due to its indie feel. The aesthetic of the film can give off the “art house” movie vibe. Regardless, if the audience is willing to give the film just a short amount of time, they will find themselves tapping their feet to the beat. As I said before, go see this.
“Whiplash” is also nominated for:
– Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, J.K. Simmons
– Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley
– Best Achievement in Film Editing, Tom Cross
– Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Damien Chazelle
The eight films nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year are:
– The Grand Budapest Hotel — Read Chad’s review 9 Oscar Nominations for ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’.
– Boyhood — Read Chad’s review A Meandering Yet Remarkable “Boyhood “.
– American Sniper — Read Chad’s review “American Sniper” Aims for the Heart
– The Imitation Game — Read Chad’s review “The Imitation Game” Rolls the Dice on Fact and Fiction
– Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
– The Theory of Everything
– Whiplash — Read Chad’s Review “Whiplash” is Right on Time
The Oscars will be broadcast live on Sunday, Feb. 22, beginning at 7 p.m. on ABC.
Chad Alexander is a mild-mannered government contractor by day and a pretty normal sleeper by night. He has been dedicated to freelance writing for the last decade — writing scripts, short stories, and blogging in his spare time. He reads constantly, plays board games in his spare time, and enjoys a fine 20 oz of Cherry Coke whenever he’s feeling dangerous.
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