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Ever had a dream of being a great football player? A great dancer? A great singer? A great musician? Our protagonist has a dream of being a great drummer, a drummer that will be remembered forever. Maybe you are still fighting for your dream. Maybe you have given up on greatness. Greatness doesn't come easily, you need to practice at it. Andrew practices until his hands bleed.
Andrew (Miles Teller) is 19-year old student at a music conservatory in Manhattan. Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is a teacher at the conservatory with a ruthlessly brutal teaching style. After picking Andrew to play in the school band, he pushes Andrew to his limits in order to realize his full potential, at the risk of his humanity.
I had a billiards teacher at one point in my life, who was close to becoming a pro in his craft but a grease fire accident changed all that. His perspective changed, to paraphrase, he realized he was becoming an asshole. He became a teacher of pool instead of becoming a pro player. Through him, I can understand what Terrence Fletcher was trying to instill into Andrew. My teacher would push me a little bit. When he gave me opportunities to show him up, "run the table now," he would tell me, I failed. It's embarrassing when that happens but it's also a learning tool because more work needs to be done. You can't get by on talent alone but it certainly helps. On the other side of it, I saw a little bit of my teacher in Andrew. Losing who you are to perfect something you love. Good thing my teacher realized before it was too late.
I lost myself in the story. It had something to say about not settling and asking more of yourself. Two fantastic performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. Perhaps it will push you to maybe pick up that guitar again, put on your ballet shoes, or hit the gym to bulk up. Whiplash is an incredibly powerful film. And after the final shot cuts to black, the film will stick with you for days.
My expectations: Medium. I did not expect the film to be so powerful for me. Expectations exceeded.
Recommendation: Cinema lovers and casual movie goers, I believe will enjoy this film.
Re-watch value: I can watch this film again and I actually can't wait until it hits distribution.
Memorable: I am still thinking about this film.
Taking the festival circuit by storm since its Sundance premiere in
January, Whiplash is starting to feel like the underdog that could go
far with its crowd-pleasing intensity. On the surface, it's a gritty
story about a brutal student-mentor relationship that oversteps
boundaries. Underneath, it's a piercing examination of the psyche of
unbridled ambition. Whiplash is a film that stops at nothing. As a
result, it's the best film I've seen in years, and I say that without
hesitation. This is a film that resonates on every single level and
every moment counts. If writer/director Damien Chazelle was striving
for greatness as much as his protagonist, then he has achieved it.
Miles Teller, who's been steadily growing on me since The Spectacular Now, stars as Andrew Neyman, a 19-year-old aspiring jazz drummer who's pushed and inspired by the abuse and aspirations of his school band leader Fletcher, played by the ferocious J.K. Simmons like we've never seen him before. Chazelle has described the film as an origin story to the jazz musicians of the golden age, and it thrives on the myths of jazz heroes such as Charlie Parker. They're urgently looking for the next Parker, in search of perfection. But with that comes a great irony. The music genre is known as one for freedom of expression but here the jazz is soulless and mechanical, and that clouds the ethical judgment of the characters. Even so, Fletcher is a man who can tell if you have the right tempo within a bar. Although most of the audience for the film may not know much about music including myself, you get a feel for what he's looking for and when someone's wrong even if you don't know why. Simmons is as good as they say he is. He's a force of nature, with a terrifying presence that incites the fear Bryan Cranston achieved with the peak of his Walter White. But it's not a one-note performance. Simmons is still subversive with moments of weakness, insecurity, approachability, and he also sometimes brings in the lightness he's known for in other roles with Jason Reitman, exec producer here.
Even though he's an unlikeable character with nothing nice to say, he's still somewhat endearing and enigmatic, much like R. Lee Ermey's drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket. This demasculinisation through a barrage of insults is a theme explored in Whiplash and it argues whether it's a crime or an 'ends justifying the means' factor of life. It's not just a music film, but also one that adapts to the elements of sports training, war at boot camp and biopic genres with the way it frames its elements. Fletcher is representative of the devil on our shoulders that yells at us that we're not good enough and that symbolic idea resonates deeply for me. His poisonous words are more a part of Andrew's psyche than legitimate coaching techniques. What grabs me about the film is its discussion on artistic perfection, and especially in these intimate and rough sequences of practicing. What is objectively great in art? When is it good enough, and why? It toes a fascinating line. That's why drumming is such an interesting choice for the film to explore because it's so instinctive. Drummers have to make decisions within a fraction of a second and talent can only take you so far. The roaring beat in Whiplash puts your heart in your throat. Teller's performance as Andrew is terrific, one to match Simmons.
Chazelle is committed on expressing the physicality of drumming and Teller captures it exhaustively without feeling contrived. It's the virtuosity of the writing that allows us into Andrew's head however. It's a long road to the top, but the script makes the right decision to allow him to revel in the little moments of success, but then to immediately test him in surprising and involving ways. Each turn of the story shapes his expectations and ambitions and then escalates it to the right point. While the film is a gripping experience nonetheless, in retrospect perhaps it is too bitingly cynical. It does suggest that you have to be deprived of a meaningful relationship to achieve your goals. It does appear to be very anti-positive reinforcement, but perhaps it's merely a statement on the abundant sheltering that the latest generation is enduring. Whiplash is refreshing to see, we all know we wouldn't be resilient enough to take that kind of punishment so it's cathartic to watch Andrew go through it all and see how far he'll go. His frustration, regrets, fear and rage with himself cuts to the core of the human condition as he's pushed further and further.
The technical aspects of the film help it become so stimulating with dizzying closeups tightly edited together and its the stark orange tinted cinematography. It's thoroughly impressive that the film was shot in only 19 days for them to get shots so immaculately timed and performed with all those complicated movements. There's a refreshing brevity to the film with its sharp atmosphere, but it's so rich in emotion, psychological tension and personal subtext. It neither rushes nor drags, on paper nor on screen. It really is a film that lingers in your mind for days, nagging you, like Fletcher over your shoulder. Maybe it'll continue to linger for weeks. I hope so too, especially for Oscar voters. It seems that J.K. Simmons is building momentum to be a lock for Best Supporting Actor at this point. However, Whiplash isn't just a best of year film, nor best of decade. It approaches best of all-time worthy with its identifiable themes of meticulous work ethics, fulfilling aspirations, resilience of the soul, and knowing when to no longer measure yourself to your mentor. I'll take this film with me for a while as a screaming motivator.
10/10. Best film of the decade.
Read more @ The Awards Circuit (http://www.awardscircuit.com/)
After seeing Damien Chazelle's Whiplash - a film the young up-and-
coming director wished to do for some time now - being so beautifully
realized and brought to life by everyone involved in the project, I was
glad and relieved, mainly because I have seen the short film, which was
I believe that among the most telling facts about a film's fortunes and qualities, is the ability to broaden it's public, but in the same time not forgetting that cinema is not all about commercial success and mass audiences.Or with other words - a film that is not just eye candy and booms and explosions, but also craft, soul, dedication and wits.
Those are some of the things not only the film itself possesses, but the people behind it have in abundance as well.
The upcoming Miles Teller plays the young and dedicated student Andrew Nieman, who has the drive, the ambition to succeed and to be great, which is fine, as long as it doesn't derail your personal life.A lesson the young drummer learns the hard way.
Blind ambition is the thing, that can describe our anti-hero of sorts, Terrence Fletcher a.k.a the brilliant J.K. Simmons, who has a thing for mindeffin' his students to the point of total physical and mental exhaustion and even depression.But he does it for a reason, for the sole purpose of finding the next big, even great, thing in jazz and in music as a whole.The next prodigy, the next "Yardbird" Charlie Parker that will be otherwise lost, if not being pushed to the very limit.
And boy, does J.K. Simmons nails it.Chazelle has done a masterful job in casting the two leads in Teller and Simmons.Their respective acts are full of purpose, full of tension and ultimately terrific.
Expect some awards going in the way of "Whiplash" and look out for Simmons in the Oscars shortlist, that's how good he is in it.And in his own words: "What a shame we wrapped it up in only 19 days".It must have been really fun playing a part like Terrence Fletcher and Simmons completely sold it.
As I said, the best movies are those, that reach out to the most diverse and wide spectrum of audiences, not those, who can connect to a massive number of people, who are representatives of only one specific audience type.And Chazelle has achieved just that with "Whiplash" - a precise, tension-building film, full of beautifully staged pieces and above all else, a love towards music and the challenges it often represents if you want to get to the very top.
The film ended in a big round of applause from the packed theater and I am sure that will be the case a long time from now!
My grade: 9/10
There is so many excellent great things to say about this film. To
start off I will say it may be slow and to different for some to enjoy
and so that I warn you. Now I will say that I can not express the idea
enough of how surprising this film is. Jk Simmons does an outstanding
performance as the highly unpredictable hair trigger tempered teacher
Fletcher, Miles Teller an actor who I've only seen in mediocre comedies
also shines in a breakthrough performance as the ambitious drummer
Andrew. The performance are outstanding and that's just the tip of the
My favorite thing about this film is how it has created it's own one of a kind spot in the music genre of film, it's atmosphere is unlike any other as well. The idea that this film is one of a kind can't be stressed enough, I guarantee you cannot find another film out there like this. This film expresses a shockingly high intensity for a music film. I believe that Jk Simmons acting is what fueled a lot of the intensity. When you watch this film even though it's pace will seem slow to most it's intensity is impossible to miss.
I can see how a lot of certain people may find this film hard to enjoy but for me this film as slow as it is couldn't have been more intense. The mere fact that a music film shows some strong intensity like this one did is mind blowing to me. I don't know how many of you had this same experience or something similar then you already know what I'm talking about. I have a good feeling and I'm hopeful this film rakes in some acting Oscars because this film deserves at least one. I haven't read anything on this films page and I'm sure others have expressed similar opinions and all I can say is listen and trust me. I'm praying you enjoy this film and experience it's one of a kind intensity just as I did. Thanks for reading my review and enjoy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this about 24 hours ago at the Best of Fest for Sundance, and
this last 24 hours I have done little but think about and marvel at
this film. I really had zero expectations going in, I heard the buzz
surrounding it in town, but knew very little about it as the film
began. I have yet to get the words that do my thoughts justice for this
movie but I am going to try.
First everything about this film was stellar; casting, writing, acting, directing, music and cinematography all came together to just tell an incredible story. I want to say a bit more about a couple of these aspects.
Acting, first of all I don't know who impressed me more Miles Teller in the lead as Andrew Nieman or JK Simmons playing Band teacher Terence Fletcher. Both did so great that had either been a lesser actor they would have been out shined by the other. Simmons' performance really reminded me of Gunnery Sargent Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, except rather than emotionally destroying and rebuilding marines he was doing it to 18 year old kids. His character could have easily been cartoony and 2 dimensional but Simmons gave him such depth that the whole film I felt compassion for and even understood his motives, even before he lays them out for Nieman in the third act. Two scenes bring you to the core of this character and the line that has intrigued me for 24 hours is "No words in the English language are more dangerous than 'good job.'" (thus why I titled my review as such, sorry I couldn't resist). Then on to Teller's performance, for a younger actor who I haven't seen in much I must say he played his role like a seasoned actor. His performance just wrapped me up and to find out he did much of the drumming himself is insane. Whilst watching some of the intense scenes I felt like I was watching him be executed, and other times it feels like the fight in Rocky, you feel like you are just watching him get demolished, except all of this is emotional rather than the easier physical. Whether it is the discouragement, the socially awkwardness, the single parent household, the internal conflict, the hubris, the arrogance, and at times the mental torture that he put himself through, all just blew me away. Teller reminded me of a much much more talented John Cusack and had the charisma and electricity to connect to the audience.
The one other thing I must commend is the writing, so often you kind of know where a movie is headed but this movie stayed very unpredictable and just when you think for certain how a scene or sequence of scenes will play out they take a hard left and keeps you off balance (in a good way). It was so refreshing, a few times I thought the bow was on the film but then something disrupts how "it should go or end".
Sorry if I rambled, perhaps after thinking on it more I can get a more focused review, needless to say this film is a must-see when it gets a broad release. Great job to all involved and congrats on winning the award at Sundance, you certainly earned it.
One last thing if this gets attention in wide release this could see a heightened interest in Jazz, this is certainly a film that can make even the not-so musically inclined want to throw on a Jazz record and just drown in it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The good parts:
The movie is very sensitively filmed. The camera relentlessly explores every bump on Teller's and Simmons's heads like a documentary about Greek sculpture. It adds a lot to the feel of the movie in a wonderfully subtle way.
Simmons and Teller (as the "Studio" band director and the, I guess, protagonist young drummer) do a great job. Simmons in particular is really the nexus of energy for the entire movie, and owns that role with absolute precision.
The music, when it's actually music, is well-chosen and well-performed.
The terrible parts:
Simmons ("Fletcher") and Teller ("Andrew") are essentially the only characters in the film. Andrew's dad and his not-really girlfriend are secondary characters that serve to remind the audience what actual humans are like. Andrew is an insufferable jerk, and Teller does an amazing job of maintaining (mostly) a stone-faced, blankly insensitive look throughout almost every tense moment of the film. Simmons's Fletcher is a superb sadistic maniac. He's not "intense" or "volatile" - he's a psychotic monster.
I'm debilitated as a reviewer because my son is a talented young drummer, so I get to see good drumming all the time. The persistent trope in the film of Andrew drumming until his hands bleed is wildly unrealistic; that basically cannot happen if you're a drummer good enough to get into a prestigious music school in the first place. Everything else about Andrew at the fancy school, upon further examination, is completely unreal. He basically never talks to the other complete non-entities in the band. They're all like POWs, obeying the maniac director unflinchingly (except when they fail, when they're abused and ejected). My son (whose judgment I trust because he's also obsessed, but not a jerk) described the silly drum "competition" as "three people who can't drum doing shitty grind-core break beats". (To be fair, he liked the movie. What can you do.)
So OK, the movie is an allegory, and not intended to be realistic. So it's an allegory about how a sadist can really help a self-absorbed jerk with some obsession get better at what they want to do? I can't find any way to sympathize with that. I mean, who is that speaking to?
Finally, the actually appropriate and yet irritatingly obtrusive product placement (pristine cymbal labels, super-clean Zildjian logo on Andrew's stick bag, etc) got pretty hard to take by the (truly weird) ending.
Go see this movie because everybody else thinks it's great, but if you feel funny afterwards maybe this review will offer some comfort that you're not alone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Inspiring, intense, reverent, Damien Chazelle's jazz-infused drama is an incredibly complex character study that has Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons at the top of their game in this brilliant effort. Whilst I was fixated by 'Birdman' and found 'Boyhood' a generally entertaining watch, 'Whiplash' is by far the most riveting and sensational drama I have viewed from 2014. J.K. Simmons stars as antihero Terence Fletcher, a character we look at as the opportunity of Andrew's success, but also we hate for his brutal portrayal. His performance is flawless and breathless, a truly resonant achievement. The final drum solo ends the film on a high note and keep its audience lingering on the edge of their seats, it is powerful, it is intense, it is a near-masterpiece!
Greetings again from the darkness. The pursuit of greatness is not
always pretty. No matter if your dream is athletics, dancing, music or
some other; you can be sure hard work and sacrifice will be part of
your routine. You will likely have a mentor, teacher or coach whose job
is to cultivate your skills while pushing you to new limits. This film
questions whether the best approach is intimidation or society's
current preferred method of nurturing.
Miles Teller plays Andrew, a first year student at an elite Manhattan music conservatory. Andrew dreams of being a great jazz drummer in the vein of Buddy Rich. When offered a rare shot at the top ensemble, Andrew quickly discovers the conductor is a breed unlike anything he has ever encountered. The best movie comparison I can offer for JK Simmons' portrayal of Terence Fletcher is R Lee Ermey's Drill Instructor in Full Metal Jacket. This is no Mr Holland's Opus. Fletcher bullies, intimidates, humiliates and uses every imaginable form of verbal abuse to push his musicians, and especially young Andrew, to reach for greater heights.
Andrew and Fletcher go head to head through the entire movie, with Fletcher's mental torment turning this into a psychological thriller ... albeit with tremendous music. We witness Andrew shut out all pieces of a personal life, and even take on some of Fletcher's less desirable traits. Andrew's diner break-up with his girlfriend (Melissa Benoist) is much shorter, but just as cold as the infamous opening scene in The Social Network. At a small dinner party, Andrew loses some of the sweetness he inherited from his dad (Paul Reiser), and unloads some Fletcherisms on some unsuspecting family friends.
Writer/Director Damien Chazelle has turned his Sundance award-winning short film into a fascinatingly brutal message movie that begs for discussion and debate. The open-ended approach is brilliant, though I found myself initially upset at the missing clean wrap that Hollywood so often provides. What price greatness? Is comeuppance a reward? Are mentors cruel to be kind? For the past few years, I have been proclaiming that Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now) is the next John Cusack. Perhaps that bar is too low. Teller just gets better with each film. His relentless energy draws us in, and we find ourselves in his corner ... even though this time, he's not the greatest guy himself. Still, as strong as Teller is, the film is owned by JK Simmons. Most think of him as the dad in Juno, or the ever-present insurance spokesman on TV, but he previously flashed his bad side as the white supremacist in "Oz". Even that, doesn't prepare us for Simmons' powerhouse performance ... just enough humanity to heighten his psychological torturing of musicians.
You should see this one for Simmons' performance. Or see it for the up and coming Teller. Enjoy the terrific music, especially Duke Ellington's "Caravan". See it for the talking points about teachers, society and personal greatness. See it for any or all these reasons - just don't tell director Damien Chazelle "good job".
This movie was far better than the trailer made it look.
JK Simmons gave a stellar performance as a music teacher in the best Jazz school, trying desperately to find and develop the next jazz legend. From the moment he appears he demands the screen, literately. There's a part in the flick were he just burst open the door putting a halt on whatever is going, and makes it all about what he wants, which sets the tone for the entire movie. One of the best antagonist I've seen at the movies.
Miles Teller plays the protagonist, A first year Jazz student who wants to be the next Jazz legend and is willing to go through the pain needed to become just that. I've been a fan of Miles Teller for a while and this movie just increase my fandom
It does not matter whether you are into jazz or not, this flick is about and boy willing to kill himself to become the best and the man willing to kill the boy so he can be the best. For anyone who has ever been in that kind of pressure, weather it be at college or on the playing field(I kid you not, watching these guys play Jazz played out like I was watching a Football movie with Miles being the Quarterback and JK being the coach)
It was an emotion trill ride with a lot of ups and downs, and just when you think the ride is over, we go for a second time around.
When it comes to cinema, there are often little gems in a sea of bigger
spectacles, that can break through in the most proficient way. Last
year, I pleaded to the entire film universe that discover and
understand "Inside Llewyn Davis" from the Coen Brothers after seeing it
for the first time at NYFF. This year, I've seem to already come to
terms that the next film that will utilize all my energy and resources
this year will be Damien Chazelle's highly intense psychological drama
"Whiplash." An impeccable and tightly wound experience that brings your
anxiety to a feverish level. As small, and utterly different as I'm
about to compare, I haven't felt this uneasy with a film's tension
since Paul Greengrass' "Captain Phillips," coincidentally also was a
NYFF title. Two other similar traits that embody the two are the
intense and completely submersible performances that inhabit them.
Stars Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons are absolutely astonishing,
featuring two of the year's very best turns.
Chazelle's film tells the story of Andrew (Teller), a first year music student that seeks out and joins the prestigious school band, headed by an intense and frightening teacher Mr. Fletcher (Simmons).
Walking out of the screening I fully knew (though I fully hope to be proved wrong this year) that Miles Teller would be my "Oscar Isaac" this year. A performance that should shoot to the top of any awards consideration for a lead actor, but unfortunately will be passed over show after show. Teller is submerged in a way that we haven't seen the young actor achieve at this stage in his career. After plowing onto the scene opposite Nicole Kidman in "Rabbit Hole," and then helming "The Spectacular Now" with complete ease and intensity, I was not expecting him to be the machine of fury and magnitude that is on display in "Whiplash." There are moments where he channels the emotional aura of performances like Tom Hulce/F. Murray Abraham in "Amadeus," as crazy as that sounds. I am so excited to see where Teller goes from here. It makes the future of film a lot more bright, knowing that someone like him will be rising up in the ranks.
Everything you've heard about J.K. Simmons is true and then some. A fully fleshed out supporting role, Chazelle doesn't write Fletcher as a caricature. He's a deeply acute individual, full of passion and acrimony. Chazelle doesn't keep Simmons at a "10," he and Simmons allow him to find a range of empathy, hatred, and cryptic allowances that will keep you at the edge of your seat. As I watched Simmons flesh out a performance that can only be described as magnificent, I kept coming back in my mind to Christoph Waltz in the Oscar-winning "Inglourious Basterds," a role that found much heat on the awards circuit. The world/all film lovers will not be able ignore the stunning presence of Simmons. A Supporting Actor nominations (maybe even a win) seems all but assured (and deserved). Looking back at the veteran actor's career that included memorable roles in "Juno," "Burn After Reading," and "Up in the Air," a role like this could not have come at a better time. Already impressive in his brief work in Jason Reitman's "Men, Women & Children," writers, directors, casting agents, and producers will be pounding on the actor's door.
You can't credit "Whiplash" without citing the words and control by writer/director Damien Chazelle. An amazing and outstanding sophomore effort (unfortunately have not seen his debut "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench") that channels a young Bennett Miller. Vigorous, self-assured, and innovative, Chazelle is a brilliant auteur filmmaker that knows exactly what type of films he wants to make. He takes inspiration from his own life, his love of film and music, and other places I'm sure we don't know about, and molds them into a gritty, layered experience, conditioned with rich characters, all realized through the writer's story. It's one of the best scripts of the year.
"Whiplash" features some of the best minutes of film seen in 2014. An ending that will bring tears to your eyes, dual performances that will have you applaud, and an experience that you surely will not forget. Drumming has never felt like such a personality. It acts as a visible tool for the viewer to understand and try. If you love music, appreciate education, and dare to be better than your current state, you will find something very real to latch onto. Hold on, and hold on tight.
"Whiplash" is being distributed by Sony Pictures Classics and will be released October 10 in limited release (and then expanding after). A must-see for all movie lovers!
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