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article imageReview: ‘Whiplash’ is pitch perfect Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 24, 2014 in Entertainment
‘Whiplash’ is about a young man’s unyielding dedication to become one of the world’s greatest jazz drummers — in spite of his teacher’s ruthless direction.
Even natural talent has to be nurtured to reach its full potential. Conversely, the wrong mentor can squash even the greatest talent into oblivion. In Whiplash, a young jazz drummer is caught between these two possibilities. He learns the hard way that being gifted means nothing unless you're willing to put in the work and someone is willing to recognize your efforts.
Andrew (Miles Teller) has been sitting behind a drum kit most of his life. Gaining admission to an elite east-coat music conservatory is a dream come true and the first step on his path to greatness. The second is earning a seat in the school's competitive band, led by a merciless teacher (J.K. Simmons) who has no limit for how far he'll push his students to "help" them reach their full potential. Fletcher turns Andrew's dream into a nightmare, forcing him to the edge of his abilities and sanity. All either of them can do is wait to see if the pressure crushes him or makes him shine.
The image of a struggling musician is almost cliché at this point, but this depiction still manages to stand out from the crowd thanks to an excellent script based on the personal experiences of writer/director Damien Chazelle, and striking performances from Teller and Simmons. While he may not have been featured in every close-up, it would have been impossible to use a stunt player for most shots. Therefore Teller is actually playing in most scenes. A two-month boot camp turned the former rock drummer into a passable jazz drummer, giving the story the authenticity of a young man putting his blood (a lot of blood), sweat and tears into reaching his goal.
In order to round out Andrew's character, his close relationship with his single father (Paul Reiser) often becomes a topic of focus. In addition, he has a crush on a girl (Melissa Benoist) at the movie theatre he frequents. But outside of school and an awkward family dinner, those are the only people to which he speaks. The essence of the story is housed within the walls of the music institution. Each time he sits behind the drum kit, the film approaches a narrative peak.
Similarly, there are attempts to show a softer side of Fletcher but he is so bitter and angry that any vulnerability is eventually overpowered by his vile personality. Both men are inspired by a tale in which a musician excels after a symbol is thrown at his head in disgust, motivating him to practice until he is the best; though it's had very different effects on their lives.
Audiences immediately gravitate to Andrew. They share his embarrassment and frustration when Fletcher publicly crucifies him. Viewers wince as he drums until his hands are raw and bloody, determined to master Hank Levy's "Whiplash." The final act is the climax the film deserves and it's executed flawlessly, leaving audiences with a physical and emotional reaction that carries through long past the movie's end.
Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons and Melissa Benoist
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