Whiplash stars the relatively unknown (to me, at least) Miles Teller as Andrew, a student who loves drumming. Schaffer University music bod Terrence Fletcher (JK Simmons) also loves his drumming, as he spots the lad’s talent at the start of the film and invites him to join his class, but if he wants to be in it, he needs to be present, on the dot for 6am the next morning…
As Debbie Allen said in a certain film, as dance teacher Lydia Grant, “Fame costs, and right here’s where you start paying”. Imagine the same happening here – if you want to be the best, if you want to beat the rest, then oooh, dedication’s what you need… no, that’s Roy Castle on Record Breakers… But it’s all the same thing as you’ve got a tough row to hoe if you want to make it to competition level.
To say Fletcher is a hard taskmaster is an understatement, demanding the very best from his students whilst thinking nothing of belittling them if he wants them to leave the class forever, since he accuses an overweight member of concentrating too much on a Happy Meal than being in tune, and not to look at the floor, whilst feeling sorry for himself, because “There’s no Mars bar down there”.
In addition to the two powerhouse leads, the cast also includes Glee‘s Melissa Benoist as Nicole, the girl who works behind the popcorn counter at the cinema and a new romantic interest for Andrew, plus Paul Reiser as Andrew’s father, Jim, and there’s at least one point in this film where Reiser could pass for grey-haired warmonger Tony Blair.
And best supporting actor goes to JK Simmons’ arm muscles, for supporting his arm. Simmons has always had impossible arm muscles. Seriously, since he has a long and varied career, everyone will have their favourite TV or film performance of his. For me, it’s as inmate Vern Schillinger in tough prison drama Oz. That programme finished in 2003 and I still miss it.
I’d never heard of Damien Chazelle before, but he’s clearly a director who really knows his subject and also how to cut between the scenes at the right moment, to build up tension and to retain your interest throughout – especially important since if someone was to invite you to watch a film that’s all about drumming, your first response would no doubt be: “Pardon”?
Whiplash takes its name from a jazz song by Hank Levy, and the film, itself, makes for an engaging movie, but I was disappointed with the ending. I’ll explain my reasons surrounded with a spoiler tag, and I’ll also include a question from early in the film for anyone who has seen it:
Whiplash isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray and DVD, but in the meantime you can buy the soundtrack CD, and and click on the poster for the full-size image.
Running time: 107 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
Format: 2.35:1 (ProRes 4:4:4 (1080p/24) and Canon H.264 (1080p/24))
Released: January 16th 2015
Director: Damien Chazelle
Producers: Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster and Michel Litvak
Screenplay: Damien Chazelle
Music: Justin Hurwitz
Andrew: Miles Teller
Fletcher: JK Simmons
Jim: Paul Reiser
Nicole: Melissa Benoist
Ryan: Austin Stowell
Carl: Nate Lang
Uncle Frank: Chris Mulkey
Mr Kramer: Damon Gupton
Aunt Emma: Suanne Spoke
Dorm Neighbor: Max Kasch
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.