Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist
Plot: An aspiring drummer attempts to achieve greatness under the tutelage of an abusive jazz instructor.
Review: Much has been said about Whiplash before I finally got the chance to see this. I'm glad to report that it's as good as they say it is, or at least almost.
The teacher-student relationship has been explored several times on film, but never quite like this. We've never had a student this determined to be great, and a teacher this hard and abusive on his students.
Whiplash focuses on Andrew Nieman, a young drummer who wants to be a legend like Buddy Rich. He enrolls in Shaffer Conservatory and becomes a student of Terence Fletcher, a jazz instructor who's mean and abusive to his students. He demands perfection from them, and if he doesn't get it, he'll start yelling and throwing things. Despite getting harsh treatment from him, Andrew keeps practising till his hands bleed, all to achieve the standard Fletcher wants.
Writer/director Damien Chazelle has made the most basic story possible, narrowing the focus down to two things: achieving perfection, and the relationship between two men. Fletcher is tough on his band of students, but in his eyes, it's a necessity in order to attain the level he requires. Despite that, outside of class, he's a regular guy that one would be able to talk to or receive friendly advice from, indicating that he's not necessarily a monster. J.K. Simmons owns the role perfectly, making the man understandable and not someone we'd consider a villain or a person we hate. If we ever met him, we'd be afraid of him perhaps, but we won't dislike him. Simmons earned the Oscar for sure.
Similarly, Miles Teller puts in a strong performance as Andrew, going from being a nice kid to someone who wants to be the best at any cost. We slowly watch Andrew sacrificing his own well being and getting in Fletcher's face when he doesn't get what he wants, becoming nearly as bad as his instructor. Teller is awesome as well, and it needs to be noted.
Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist play Andrew's dad and love interest respectively, and though they serve up good performances, the focus isn't on them. Plus, Benoist's role seems unnecessary overall, the film doesn't change even if it was excised completely.
I'll have to admit; if you're the type of person that doesn't like the kind of music played here, you might be put off by what transpires throughout the film. That being said, I strongly recommend this film to anyone who wants to see great acting and possibly learn something about achieving your goal.
If you can get your hands on this film, give it a shot. (8/10)