Miles Teller and JK Simmons star in the Oscar winning drumming drama Whiplash.
Whiplash: a sudden, forceful injury usually sustained by a severe jerk to the head. Well, that’s the official definition anyway. Damien Chazelle’s triple Oscar winning film Whiplash, about an aspiring jazz drummer and his oppressive conductor, is a psychological car crash that hits harder than most and stays with you long after its final note.
Miles Teller (21 & Over, The Spectacular Now) plays promising 19-year-old drummer Andrew Nieman, who in his first year of music college, is cherry-picked by studio jazz band conductor Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons).
Excellent in pretty much everything he does, from the cartoonish J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man to the caring but quirky Dad in Juno, Simmons gets serious here as the autocratic and intensely punishing Fletcher.
(JK Simmons has got a mean game face as the intensely overbearing Fletcher)
Exactly on the stroke of the hour, he bursts in through the studio doors like a drill sergeant greeting his jarheads at morning inspection, barking orders in the form of bars, time signatures and tempos. Fletcher owns the room and his time better be the only one.
It’s a deserved Oscar for Simmons in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role. The image of Fletcher’s clenched fist appearing over and over again in disapproval of a note out of tune or a fill out of time, is one of utter dread.
The personal attacks are hard to watch, yet Fletcher justifies his cruelty by stating that he is there “to push people beyond what’s expected of them.” His psychological bombardment fuels Andrew’s desire to be one of the great’s like Charlie Parker, but it take its toll on the young man both mentally and physically.
(“Somebody got Ketchup all over the kit! Come on guys!”)
Teller’s performance is just as tight as Simmons’. He plays a driven Andrew with a touch of melancholy, which in turn, builds to an almighty crescendo at the end of film’s second act.
A drummer from the age of 15, Teller did actually play the music his character performs in the film. Broken into chunks and then shot piece by piece, Chazelle and editor Tom Cross (who won an Oscar for his work on the film), made it look as though Teller was actually playing the whole way through, most notably in the film’s glorious climax.
Whiplash isn’t for everybody but, you don’t need to be a lover of jazz to appreciate its layered storytelling, incredible musical performances and first-class acting. And though you may not come back to it with a great fondness, Whiplash demands to be seen, heard and experienced.