107 min - Drama | Music

Review: Matt Mungle


This review goes out to to all the musicians in the room. Those who at one time or another took a music class under the guidance of a band leader or music professor. If you have only played in your room or in the garage with friends (maybe reaching great heights) you still may not understand or fully grasp the film which is, WHIPLASH. If you are a drummer, better yet a jazz drummer. you will appreciate it even more. This movie takes the student/teacher dynamic and uses it with jaw dropping results. It will seriously knock the wind out of you.

Andrew (Miles Teller) is an above average student at a prestigious music conservatory. He eats, breathes, bleeds, and sleeps playing drums. His desire to become one of the best jazz drummers in the country over powers everything else in his life. He will stop at nothing to reach his goal and if he has to offend or cut out friends and family to do it; then so be it. When Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), the schools leading professor, offers him a place in the schools most coveted ensemble Andrew is up for the challenge. What he isn't ready for is Fletcher's brutal, cutthroat teaching style. One that may very well push this already self ingratiating student to the brink of a mental breakdown.

Simmons and Teller are fantastic in this film. Fletcher wields his anger like an automatic weapon, aiming it at a student with sniper like precision. Anyone caught in his scope is soon rendered an incoherent puddle of drool. Fletcher is convinced his methods are necessary to motivate the young musicians in discovering their best selves. Often with tragic results. Simmons plays the part beautifully. He conducts the beats of the film and seems to truly understand and embody the rhythms of jazz.His ability to go from anger to compassion is as smooth as changing time signatures.

Teller is a beast on the drums. His playing ability is so very important in making the film believable and keeping the audience in the moment. Andrew pushes himself harder than anyone and walks a high wire between arrogance and low self esteem. He looks at Fletcher as a mentor and often gets angry and confused by his bi-polar way of teaching. Andrew reacts by pushing himself even harder in order to prove his worth and ability. This creates a chaotic tension in each scene that is a series of staccato notes that pushes the viewer to the edge of their seat. The final act is a pulse pounding encounter between student and teacher that is so intense that you won't realize you are holding your breath until the credits role and you finally take a gulp of air.

WHIPLASH is rated R for strong language including some sexual references. This is not a film to watch with the kids. The language and degrading way that Fletcher teaches is full of strong profanity and crude innuendoes. It defines his character though and goes a long way in solidifying the nature of the role. There is nothing other than language to be concerned about. I am not so sure this is a date night film either. Not that women can't relate or appreciate it but more from the sense that it doesn't exude many happy endorphans. If you are in the mood though for a serious drama with lots of emotion and personality study then this one is a winner. I give it 5 out of 5 rim shots for Teller's drumming alone. There is much in this for lovers of jazz and especially those who have sat behind a kit.




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