Whiplash: Film Review

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Who knew a film about a student learning to become a great jazz drummer would be so amazing?! It was intense, dramatic and so, so powerful. I cannot fault this. The performances, the music and the ups and downs are just incredible, and it deserves all the nominations it has been receiving.

Miles Teller is Andrew, a student at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory of Music in New York, the country’s best music school, who strives to be remembered as one of history’s greatest jazz drummers. He is soon recruited onto the team of renowned/feared teacher Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) who abuses his students to push them to greatness. He belittles them, emotionally abuses them and threatens physical violence to get results. Andrew must decide if wants to be a great musician badly enough to withstand the pressure.

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Simmons is the star here and I’m so glad he is receiving awards recognition (Golden Globe yo!) because his character is such a monster. He is mean, rude and just plain nasty. I want to rewatch this because some of his putdowns are so eloquent and wordy that you struggle to digest what he is saying. A lot of the time you laugh at what he says because it is just so horrible. I would hate to have a teacher like that – that made me live in fear constantly. He loves the power and sometimes he puts down his students just for the sake of it – to make them feel small and to make them remember who is boss, and Andrew does not like it at all.

I love the power play between them both and it comes to a dramatic head at the very end which is brilliant. I feared the film would lose its intense momentum towards the end and although it did, in a minor way, for about 10 minutes, it ended with such a bang that was fantastic and simply told through the music.

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What startled me the most was how little I know about the technical aspect of music – which I’m slightly ashamed about. I would love to know how much of the drumming was Teller because so much focus is put on the drummer’s skills and technique and the camera closes in on his pained, sweaty expression a lot. Although the film only uses three or four jazz songs, I never got bored because they were always moving the plot along and telling a different story.

Besides the unnecessary subplot of a romance, which was underused so I would rather it just cut out, I loved every aspect of this. The script is incredible with so much light and shade, cutting wit and genius putdowns. The music is fantastic and I was watching with awe. This is brilliantly intense, and verges on a thriller, which I wouldn’t expect from a music drama.

Released Friday

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  1. […] It feels like it came out forever ago and I really want to see it again. Who expected a story about a music student’s struggle to become a jazz drummer to be so intense and captivating? Far better than I was expecting. J.K. Simmons was terrifying as the harsh music teacher and Miles Teller finally proved he could sink his teeth into decent material (that was until he starred in Fantastic Four). Review. […]

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  2. […] for First Man – the opening film of the Venice Film Festival – after the success of Whiplash and La La Land, and it did not […]

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  3. […] hopes for First Man – which I saw at the Venice Film Festival – after the success of Whiplash and La La Land, and it did not […]

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