Movie Review: Whiplash
by Jason Koenigsberg
I know I am late to the party on this one, but Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash has become an Oscar contender and it is indeed one of the best films of 2014. The film about college freshman Andrew Niemann (Miles Teller) at a prestigious music conservatory where he meets the demonic and sadistic Mr. Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) who is in charge of the schools prominent Jazz band, features the best on-screen villain of the year.
J.K. Simmons has been one of the best character actors working for over the past twenty years most notable in the HBO prison series Oz and as J. Jonah Jamison in Sam Raimi’s Spider-man trilogy. It is such a pleasure to see him sink his teeth into such an evil and juicy role. He knocks it out of the park and I am mostly happy that this film will help make him more of a household name with all of the awards and acclaim he has received. He makes every line and every gesture count.
That being said, my one major complaint of Whiplash is that for as gut wrenching as the music scenes are, and the passionate and extreme performances, the film is wholly unrealistic. Simmons’ character puts his musicians through such verbal and emotional abuse that at times he makes R. Lee Ermey’s drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket (1987) look like a kindergarten teacher. There is no way that in this day and age with coaches getting in trouble for pushing millennial children hard, that this music conductor could have gotten away with what he does to his student musicians. Not to mention certain events that just had me scratching my head in disbelief.
Take the lack of realism out of the picture and Whiplash is an intense and exhilarating movie. The editing is cut at a blistering pace where drumming in a jazz band seems as severe as being on the front lines of battle. Miles Teller does a fine job as the student trying to be the best drummer he can be and a special commendation should go to Melissa Benoist as his love interest. In a small amount of screen time she really makes an impact on what our main character could have and could lose if he stays on the path he is on.
This movie at times is hilarious. Even though Mr. Fletcher being so morally depraved, I would consider Whiplash to be a dark comedy, it is without a doubt one of the films I laughed the most in during the past year. Once again the real reason to see Whiplash is to savor J.K. Simmons thrive in a role that is sinister, disturbing, complex and uproarious. The role was meant to be a showcase and a scene-stealer for whoever played it and Simmons was a wise choice. He really comes across in his all black wardrobe as the absolute incarnation of evil only giving the audience a glimmer of hope that beneath the darkness is a shred of humanity.
Check out the video below. It has nothing to do with the movie Whiplash, in fact they reference rock music as being a mockery, but this is what I will always think of when I hear the word “Whiplash”.