Whiplash flows masterfully, fluid in timing, pace, character

by Nick Farinola

     Whiplash is a movie that genuinely surprised me. I can easily say that I have never seen anything like this, but it is one of my favorite movies because of the amount of emotional depth. Originally a short film, Whiplash received much attention and was eventually funded for a cinema release. This jazz drama opens with Andrew Neimann (Miles Teller), a first-year student at the number one music school in the country. Andrew is a timid, yet brilliant drummer that is committed to his work. He is repeatedly scouted by Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a mysterious, yet well-known composer at the university.

     Fletcher eventually takes Andrew under his wing, but Fletcher’s teaching habits are slightly unorthodox. Multiple scenes that show Fletcher throwing chairs, slapping, and verbally abusing his students often surpass cruelty. Fletcher believes that through degrading his students, they will become one of the “greats.” Andrew is seen throughout the movie struggling to be the best, even if it means abandoning his girlfriend and his past self. Watching Andrew plummet into insanity over his music is very disturbing, and there are scenes in which he plays the drums until he bleeds.

     Whiplash has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture and best supporting actor for Simmons. The acting in this film was truly beautifully done. Teller plays Andrew so passionately, and Simmons delivers a torturously emotional performance. The movie was written, filmed, and edited in ten weeks, and is the lowest budget film to ever be nominated for best picture. The drum sequences are phenomenal and most of them were actually played and recorded by Miles Teller himself. The way these actors dive deep into their roles is amazing and definitely deserves recognition.

     Teller has played the drums since he was fifteen, so most of the scenes involved him playing until his hands actually bled on the drum set. In one particularly emotional scene, Andrew attacks Fletcher on stage in front of a crowd for their recital. When J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller filmed this scene, Simmons broke a couple ribs when Teller tackled him down. During many of the drum sequences, Fletcher forces his drummers to play for hours until they got the part perfectly. Andrew and his classmates are constantly shown with bloody hands as Fletcher screams the worst obscenities in their ears. The determination is relentless and it is fully tangible as a viewer.

     The film moved as quickly as the drum beats that Andrew plays. Many scenes were hard to watch because of the abusive, racist, homophobic, and cruel things that Fletcher says to his students to motivate them. I found myself disagreeing with Fletcher’s motivational techniques, but it made for a great film that deserves best picture over any other film nominated because of its fluidity, great acting, and emotional scenes that left me awestruck by the time the credits rolled.

     Whiplash is Chazelle’s sophomore attempt at filmmaking and some of the scenes in the film related closely to his and Teller’s lives. In one scene, Andrew rushes to pick up his music and drives quickly through the streets to make it to the recital before Fletcher hands his part to someone else. Andrew is seen texting and frantic as he drives, until a truck sideswipes him, flipping his car over. When he was younger, Teller was in a devastating car crash, resulting in the scars on his face. Chazelle was in a car accident halfway through filming this movie as well. Everything is fast and fluid throughout this movie and it works so well that I was breathless by the conclusion on the film.

First-year Nick Farinola is a staff writer. His email is nfarinol@fandm.edu.

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