Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014)

A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student's potential.

It is important to immediately inform you the reader that before we get into this film review of Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, I own and play on a drum occasionally and I even introduced the instrument to my daughter when she was six months old. So music and drumming are important to me and a strong interest for me. So in a way, this review might be tainted with other than a simple movie review.

Staring off with the mention of the tremendous performance by J.K. Simmons as Fletcher the tyrannical mentor is not an understatement to say that he steals every scene he is in. As his opposite, young Miles Teller plays the greatness driven Andrew who wants to become one of the best jazz drummer of his generation. It is a bit of a surprise that Teller was not nominated for an Oscar for his performance. The chemistry between the two actors works because the manipulative Fletcher works like a chameleonic presence of building and destroying to build better artists than they ever dream of.

My reading of Whiplash is a Freudian one with Andrew in the middle of his biological father who wants the best for his only child that he raised by himself having to be his father and his mother. While Andrew prefers Fletcher’s hard love father figure of a despotist dictator conductor. While he sees his father as weak and too soft for him he goes to Fletcher to get the kick and beat himself to become great. He is relegating his biological father as a figure of moral support but not a life guidance one. Feeling that his father has failed him and does not understand his drive and aspirations.

Apart from the great tension of the story and its acting performances, the cinematography and editing of the musical sequences are warm and well executed. Lighting is very dark but gives the right atmosphere for jazz music and how the conservatory seems to be taking its students into a close set of isolation and obsessive study.

Whiplash is a strong film and having never heard of its director, Chazelle, I’m looking forward to discover his next projects. It is a film that makes me want to grab the sticks and jam on my set during long hours. This is the kind of film that inspires and also understands how creative teachers can be pain in the ass but also just want to get the best out of everything. Personally, I had a father like that and it was difficult when I was a child and a teenager but today I would not be the man I am.

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