“Whiplash” stars Miles Teller as a young drummer who enrolls in the number one music school in the country. Upon arrival he is met by a cutthroat teacher (J.K Simmons) who goes to extremes to try and get the best out of his students. Damien Chazelle writes and directs.
“Whiplash” has three things about it that really make it work: the editing, Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. Without these three components it may have just been another small-time movie that is quickly forgotten. However with these two actors and an amazing editing job by Tom Cross, “Whiplash” is elevated to one of the best films of 2014.
It’s impossible not to love Miles Teller. Even in meh films such as “Two Night Stand” or “21 and Over” he shines, and his charisma and likability improve the film itself. In “Whiplash”, he gives arguably his best performance to date, as he keeps the same quick wit and amusing one-liners, but also delves into dramatic, almost depressing territory. His character is so torn and determined to be the best drummer possible that he shuns out everyone around him and practices to the point that his fingers bleed (literally).
As good as Teller is, however, the real stand out is J.K. Simmons. His character goes from calm and inspiring one second to screaming and verbally abusing the next. Like we’re talking “Wolf of Wall Street”-string-five-swear-words-into-one-sentence verbal abuse. Simmons is like Sergeant Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket” and Simmons’ J. Jonah Jameson had a love child; he has his funny moments and his rants can be entertaining to the audience, but at the same time you are thankful he is not the man in your life who is in charge of giving you orders.
The editing in the film is what really deserves praise, however. The whole movie is cut like a jazz performance, with quick jumps from one character’s face to another, from one instrument to the next. The film’s finale wears on a tad bit too long, however it is so smoothly put together that is does not drag; if anything, it will leave you leaning in your seat for more reason than one.
Writer/director Damien Chazelle first made “Whiplash” as a short film in 2013, and his script landed on the Black List, the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. He does a great job transferring his short onto the big screen, and his screenplay features a little bit of everything. You want humor? Simmons’ monologues and Teller’s charm will have you chuckling. You want thrills? When Teller goes up on stage you are just as nervous as he is because you know if he screws up Simmons will tear him apart. You want romance? Teller awkwardly asks a girl out who is then seen in only one more scene, but hey, it’s in there!
“Whiplash” is a film that is career-defining for young guns Teller and Chazelle, as well as veteran character actor Simmons. They all bring something different and special to the table, and when combined together the end product is engaging and intense, especially when you throw in some amazing editing. Sorry to continue and bring that up but seriously. It’s that good.
Critics Rating: 8/10