Whiplash is a story that winds and lurches unexpectedly but decidedly against the conventional Hollywood grain.
In Whiplash, a drummer aspiring for excellence comes under the subversive mentorship of a great jazz instructor. Please believe, this is not the standard Hollywood redemption story nor does it have the upliftingly sappy teacher/student cliché.
Whiplash is an intense film about those few creative artists that pursue the notoriety of achieving elite greatness. Withing the confines of the cutthroat and prestigious Schaffer Conservatory, a promising freshman drummer named Andrew gains the attention of an esteemed professor named Fletcher, whose reputation precedes him. Fletcher invites Andrew into his exclusive studio band. It is a story of drive, ambition and the pursuit of excellence and the discipline bordering on insanity needed to accomplish this near-impossible goal.
At first glance, the title of the film Whiplash comes from the song Fletcher uses as a competition piece for his jazz orchestra. The title and term whiplash can also be applied as an analogy for the constant jerking that Fletcher inflicts upon Andrew as Fletcher tries to unlock Andrew’s potential through necessary, but brutal, harshness.
No one truly knows the unyielding intensity that is needed for reaching creative genius when the capacity exists. The dynamic between the young prodigy and seasoned mentor created within Damien Chazelle‘s screenplay and translated with his direction to film is the most realistic representation of this relationship captured on screen in modern times. More impressive is the ability of Chazelle to flesh out his 17 minute short that debuted in 2013 at Sundance Film Festival into a feature film. The film is a little slow to start but once Fletcher ignites the drive within Andrew that unleashes some confidence, it is impossible for your attention to be diverted anywhere but on the screen.
The character of Fletcher created by J.K. Simmons is complex, esoteric, and obscure. He is unlikeable, ruthlessly and maliciously sarcastic, unrelentingly tough but completely engaging. Every scene featuring the actor has your undivided attention with villainous allure.
Whiplash is a story that winds and lurches unexpectedly but decidedly against the conventional Hollywood grain. Some viewers may feel the film ends unsatisfactorily open-ended but I find the final scene to be a definitive and momentously clear conclusion to the movie.