Ever had a mentor who pushed you too hard to succeed? Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is a music teacher who abuses his students, especially Andrew (Miles Teller) in Whiplash.
The drums prodigy has made it to the fictional Schaeffer Music Conservatory in hopes of being the next Buddy Rich. Andrew has a bit of swagger. He’s filled with confidence and ambition.
Writer/director Damien Chazelle has created two memorable characters. The performances of both actors are award-worthy, but both should be grateful for such powerful roles. Look for Chazelle to be mentioned, too, when nominations are announced.
Chazelle also tells a story that many can relate to. If you’ve ever been bullied by a teacher, a coach, a boss, a parent, a spouse or other domineering individual, you can easily identify with Andrew. Fletcher sees his “tough love” teaching as a good thing, a way to push an individual to achieve higher levels of performance. Fletcher says the worst thing you can say to a young performer is “good job.”
Although other students tell Andrew that Fletcher’s “bark is worse than his bite,” the pressure to perform up to his teacher’s tough standards is difficult. An incident leads Andrew to confront Fletcher physically. The fallout from the encounter affects both men.
The film’s final act is a genius piece of storytelling and a wonderful bit of filmmaking. The conflict between Fletcher and Andrew drives the ending of Whiplash to an unexpected conclusion.
The music performances in Whiplash are entertaining and are presented with great shot variety. Miles Teller does a good job convincing us that he’s a talented drummer. A hat tip goes to Paul Reiser who plays Andrew’s dad.
Whiplash is one of my favorite movies of 2014. I think you’ll be hearing more about this one as awards season swings into gear.