Whiplash English Movie ReviewFeature Film | UA | Drama, Musicals
When you think of a music-based drama film, you think of a generic, nice little distraction from the usual action-blockbuster fare that usually dominate conversations and are primarily responsible for getting people off their asses and to a nearby movie theater. A few predictable musical pieces, a nice little happy ending and a few moments of standoff-ish drama between characters is what you expect and what you get.
In Whiplash, any such aforementioned expectations are shattered with the force of a drummer thrashing his drum kit during a particularly wild heavy metal song. You get a film that would consider the word "predictable" mentioned in its presence as an insult. You get a film that grabs you by the back of your neck and keeps you in a stronghold, so no distraction could possibly take your eyes away from the explosive drama on screen.
When you think of a music-based drama film, you think of a sweet central romance that acts as a filler between the musical bits. In most cases, this romantic track adds absolutely no value to the film and is usually included to keep the females in the audience entertained as well.
In Whiplash, a romance between the lead character Andrew Neiman and a girl working at the local movie theater is introduced not to get women's hearts fluttering, but as more of a master class on how to capitalize on the weaknesses of a particular genre. The relationship between Andrew and Nicole is a means to an end for writer/director Damien Chazelle, who uses it as a character-building exercise for Andrew and his steely resolve to reach great heights and become one of the greatest drummers ever. Instead, the relationship that is at the front and center in this film is that between Andrew and his music instructor.
When you think of a music-based drama film, you instantly visualize the lead character playing the guitar as he struggles to fulfill his ambition of becoming a "rockstar" and ruling the hearts and minds of a generation of music listeners whose level of musical knowledge is lower than the battery life of your average android phone.
In Whiplash, the very first thing that sets the film apart from the rest of the crop is its choice of instrument -- drums. Even during a live rock concert, the drummer always seems to be at the back of the lineup, hard at work. Andrew here aims for adulation and respect rather than rabid fandom, sitting alone in his room practicing away at the drums till his hands start bleeding. Instead of a cliche of a plot with cardboard characters and inspirational quotes, the film shoots straight and brutal, not afraid of getting violent and shedding blood. It replaces gentle rapport between mentor and mentee with a string of cuss words and outrageous insults, followed by flinging of chairs and flying tackles.
When you think of a music-based drama film, you inevitably see the film heading down the wrong path simply because it wants to set up a cute-little-largely-unconvincing happy ending which sees the protagonist fulfill all his dreams.
In Whiplash, even when Damien Chazelle leads the film down a path that is unfavorable to its graph, it actually culminates in the most unpredictable, most perfect ending with the most gorgeous motherf---ing drum solo in the history of cinema.
In Whiplash, you get two unforgettable, unforgettable performances from its two leads that you're unlikely to get out of your mind for the longest time. Miles Teller's portrayal of Andrew is so convincing, your heart goes out to him every time he gets picked on by either his instructor or his band mates. Even the way his character grows in confidence with his growing stature in the school band is done with utmost conviction. In fact, every time he's on the drums, thrashing away as fast as he can move his hands and arms, with a strained and exhausted expression on his face, there's no way you can tell that he's not playing those drums himself.
In Whiplash, J.K. Simmons gives the performance of his life as music instructor Terrence Fletcher, who has serious rage and boundary problems. His in-your-face, aggressive, potty-mouthed portrayal is the most incredible thing about a film full of incredible things. It would've been easy for his character to come off as a caricature, but Simmons manages to pull it off in the most breathtaking fashion. He uses his muscular, bulked up body in the most effective manner, so that you're actually afraid for a person's life when he gets threatened by his character. He is equally believable when he speaks about music with a glint in his eye as he is when he makes students weep by using just his words.
In Whiplash, you get a director in Damien Chazelle who knows every single beat of the film, who has a complete understanding of his characters and how far he can push them without straining credulity or making them unlikable. He stays as far away as possible from the conventional, constructing a film that doesn't follow any rules and regulations.
In Whiplash, you get a film that is by far the most interesting and exciting musical in recent memory. You get a film that you'd be a fool to miss, a mistake for which you'd deserve to be stranded alone with music instructor Terrence Fletcher in a room for a day.