Whiplash (2014) Movie Review

Whiplash 2014 Movie

Whiplash (2014)
Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist

Miles Teller is on a roll. A year after his critically acclaimed performance in The Spectacular Now, Teller’s latest film Whiplash is one of my personal favourite indie movies of 2014.

Whiplash is throughly engaging and entertaining. There’s genuine dramatic tension between characters, lines of dialogue that’ll either make you laugh out loud or marvel at its razor-sharp cruelty and an exhilarating ending.

Director Damien Chazell’s jazz music drama centers on a highly driven nineteen year old drummer named Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) and his music conductor Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) whose bully like tactics can either make or break Neyman’s dreams for greatness.

Making Neyman sympathetic at the start of the movie is important to pulling off this character because we later see how his bull-headed ambition is flawed.  We are introduced to Neyman as a student at an elite music conservatory who still enjoys going to the movies with his Dad; his mother died when he was really young. It’s hard not to root for him as he tries to impress Fletcher in the hopes of being invited into the best band at the school.

Not everyone will end up liking Neyman, he’s self-righteous at family dinners and he’s so focused on what he wants he doesn’t care about how his actions affect others. But I’m impressed by how he literally sheds blood, sweat and tear in pursuing his dreams.

Neyman is a believable character and a large part of that is because of Miles Teller. Teller is so natural in the role, we forget that he’s acting. It’s an even stronger performance than in The Spectacular Now, he’s gets to show off more range in addition to his drumming skills. (Note: musician/actor Nate Lang was hired for professional drumming and training Teller.)

The primary relationship in Whiplash is between a student and a teacher. It’s clear from the start that this isn’t going to be your inspirational ‘Dead Poets Society’ type teacher dynamic. Actually quite the opposite. Fletcher’s verbal tirades are degrading and abusive, he reminds me of the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket.

J.K. Simmons is perfectly cast as Fletcher. Like his role as Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man, he’s able to be both funny and mean at the same time which is not easy to pull off. Fletcher is rarely shown outside of the music conductor role; however, he’s a sufficiently developed character for the central themes of this movie.

Whiplash 2014 Miles Teller

Chazell’s screenplay is finely tuned with only some minor blemishes. Some of the plot devices are not so much contrived as it is we can see the writer’s hand working to make things happen. Because the pacing is great, it’s actually a positive to move the story along to the next sequence of events. 

Whiplash is a coming-of-age story but I’m a little hesitant to categorize it as such because it doesn’t fully capture all the elements of the movie. It’s a wonderfully executed story that is partly about self empowerment and perseverance. 

After watching Whiplash, a quote from Matt Damon came to my mind. He said that the best word of advice he would give to aspiring actors is “No”. On one hand, it’s a lesson in handling rejection but it can also ignite a person’s deepest motivation to succeed, almost like an act of defiance.

Not in a dissimilar way, Fletcher believes that the worst words ever are “good job”. Fletcher does have his own method of madness which is at the heart of what Whiplash is about. Is there a line or limit in pushing someone beyond their conceivable abilities in order to achieve greatness? 

The title Whiplash comes from the name of one of the songs Neyman performs. The music, in particular during the final scene, is absolutely riveting as are the story and performances. Judging by the Audience Award won at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Whiplash has a wide appeal even though it’s a small, personal story. And it’s quite possible that J.K. Simmons will get an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. Whiplash gets a strong recommendation, well worth checking out in theaters.

Other Reviews You Might Like:

To The Wonder (2012) Movie Review

Mini Movie Review: Shame (2011)

About Sidekick Reviews

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Posted on October 28, 2014, in Movies, Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Cool review yo, this one sounds like a film worth watching. I’ve heard a great deal about this film since the summer and most of the critics seemed to be in love with it. I’m mainly interested in this film for JK Simmons because after Spider-Man in 2002 the guy kind of became my hero (one of many), that and I want to see why everyone LOVES Miles Teller. I’m sort of over him being in the new Fantastic Four film, but I need a reason to care about him as an actor and maybe this will be the film to change my perception.

    • JK Simmons is awesome in Spider-Man and he gets quite a few memorable lines in this movie. When Miles Teller got cast in FF I didn’t know who he was. I’d be curious to hear what you think of his acting once you see a movie of his. This is a good movie to see what he can do. He was also in Divergent but that was a small role. Thanks so much for checking out the post and commenting! 🙂

  2. Great review, and this might just be my favorite movie of the year so far. Simmons and Teller have chemistry like no other, and that final sequence is one of the best showcases of directing/editing/music/acting I’ve seen.

    • I had a blast watching Whiplash. I hope movie goers go out and see this in theaters. The chemistry is terrific and you’re totally bang on about the final sequence, it’s so awesome! Thanks a bunch for taking the time to check out the review and commenting!

  3. Damn I really can’t wait to see this one man, mostly for seeing how cruel J.K. Simmons can play. Feels as though we’ve always seen glimpses, but never a full-bore role demanding him to be pretty much pure nastiness. Great review Eddie

    • This role fits J.K. Simmons like a glove. He’s gets the best lines of the movie, which happen to be mean and kind of funny too haha. Whiplash is entertaining, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks a bunch Tom!

  4. Great review! This looks so good. It’s on my list to see. Simmons is an excellent actor, but the Oscar race is wide open.

  5. Fletcher is a psycho but the interesting thing is, Andrew is too. Two personalities that kind of fed off each other. What a great character study!

    • Hey Mark! I had a lot of fun watching Whiplash and it is a great character study. I totally agree those two did feed off of each other. Thanks for checking out the write up and commenting.

  6. Excellent film and an excellent review. I particularly enjoyed the double crosses in the last third.

    Maybe this is strange, but as much as I enjoyed the extended drum solo by Miles at the end, and I don’t know anything about drumming, I found the drumming in Birdman to extremely annoying and intrusive.

    • Whiplash is a wonderful film and I loved how that ending played out. The part of Miles drum solo that slowed down and then built back up to a super speed reminds me a lot of this Buddy Rich solo. I don’t know anything about drumming either but I enjoyed it a lot too. I’ve been meaning to check out Birdman, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Appreciate you reading the review and for your kind words.

  7. Going to see this very soon! Glad you enjoyed it. Nice write up!

  8. Simmons is not possibly getting a nomination, he’s most definitely winning 🙂 Great review, I have yet to see the movie but I heard nothing but praise for it

    • Haha, he’s very deserving of winning and getting an Oscar could help this movie get more attention, which it also deserves. 🙂 Loved this movie, hope you get a chance to see it soon Sati.

  9. Haven’t seen this one yet. Sounds like a career-making role for Miles Teller. I’ve only seen him in Divergent which barely a scratch in the surface in terms of his talents.

  10. Hey Ruth! Yeah, Teller had a minor role in Divergent, I’m not familiar with the books series but I’m guessing we’ll be seeing more of him in the sequels. Whiplash is a solid showcase for his talents and a great movie to catch up on.

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