Review of Whiplash

Whiplash (2014)
Terence Fletcher: I was there to push people beyond what's expected of them. I believe that's an absolute necessity.
29 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Dreams of becoming the great jazz drummer seem bring Andrew (Miles Teller) to the prestigious east coast conservatory where he catches attention of the celebrated but fearsome instructor and conductor Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), who invited Andrew to join the school jazz band.

Critics and viewers alike praise Whiplash to the high heaven. It was nominated for five Oscars including Best picture and received three, with predictable best supporting role award for J.K Simmons as evil sadistic manipulative bully-jazz band conductor who thrives on terrorizing the students players, especially the main character, Andrew. It is not very often that my opinion about a movie would differ completely from the public opinion but the only impression I got in the end of the often-unwatchable Whiplash, that it proves an old joke: the best marriage is between a sadist and a masochist. They both get what they need but why has the viewer to suffer?

The movie is not very long and acting by J. K. Simmons and Miles Teller is excellent, - intense and selfless, but it is essentially the scene after scene of never stopping verbal, mental and physical abuse that take place during the student jazz orchestra rehearsals for upcoming competition. More than anything, it brings to mind the first half of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket with J. K. Simmons' Fletcher making Gny. Sgt. Hartman very jealous. While the Kubrick's movie was hard to watch, it was believable and true to the logic of the characters and the situations. The jazz boot camp in the prestigious music conservatory does not ring true neither as a realistic character study of obsession and pushing the limits in the pursuit of getting the dreams come true nor as an allegory of pure evil causing something good happen.

The film director/screenwriter Damien Chazelle based Whiplash on his own teenage experience as a member of the high school jazz band with very strict instructor but he did not want to make a realistic film. He wanted to carry on screen the feeling of dread that has haunted him for many years. Early on Chazelle gave Simmons direction that "I want you to take it past what you think the normal limit would be" telling him "I don't want to see a human being on-screen anymore. I want to see a monster, a gargoyle, an animal." Chazelle exorcised his own demons and most certainly succeeded in creating a pure evil. Yes, Simmons has never been better but what is the point of film? By pushing so much further, making Simmons' character a monster of manipulation, hatred and sadism, Chazelle stripped the film of humanity, of joy that creativity and music offer. It leads to a loss of interest in what was happening on the screen and looks more and more like a very bad dream or illustration in the psychiatry textbook. To call this movie "inspiring" is an insult to creative artistic people and their instructors, mentors, teachers. What could it possibly inspire?
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