Sunday, November 16, 2014

Movie Review: "Whiplash" (2014)

Director: Damien Chazelle
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
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An aspiring young drummer named Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is in his first year at the Shaffer Conservatory in New York, the best music school in the country. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) runs the Studio Band, the toughest program in the school, and tries to drive his students to be absolute best. He is always looking for new members and Andrew becomes his latest addition. Andrew has the desire to be the best, but Fletcher's program isn't what he expected. In an effort to bring the best out of his students, he berates, insults and demoralizes them to their breaking point and sometimes beyond. 

This movie is the literal definition of blood, sweat and tears, along with the drive, motivation, passion, pain, tension, anger and frustration that comes from wanting to be the best. The plot is your basic initiative and drive versus want and need story, just in a musical setting as opposed to something else (usually, this subject is explored through a sports theme). For being a drama about drumming, we sure were on the edge of our seats the entire time! This movie is so compelling and is certainly enthralling. We want Andrew, someone who has been pushed to the side his entire life, to finally be the best at something so he can prove everyone in his life wrong, but we also don't know if he can handle the beating it will take to get there.

The acting is top notch and absolutely exceptional. J.K. Simmons' face might be recognizable, but his demeanor sure isn't. We didn't really know he had it in him to be such a demanding hard-ass. You wouldn't know it from the Farmer's Insurance advertisements, but the guy is RIPPED. His stature, his posture, his entire essence, really, are commanding and intimidating. Fletcher is a no nonsense type of instructor who demands perfection and will accept no less. He switches from calm and understanding to raging lunatic in an instant, and each time he says something sweetly or as a normal person would, you wonder how long it will take until he starts shouting obscenities again. Fletcher has all the mannerisms of a drill sergeant, and yet he is just a humble band leader. Just as a drill sergeant would keep his salute and form tight in the presence of an officer, Simmons' arm and hand are taut and rigid when he's getting ready to conduct. Simmons' performance has been likened to that of R. Lee Ermey's in "Full Metal Jacket" and we can absolutely understand that comparison. He remarks in one scene in the film that "there are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job," and this epitomizes Fletcher as a character. Nothing is better or more necessary than being pushed to perfection.

Miles Teller continues to impress us with another immerse role as Andrew. The final drum scene in the movie is worth the price of admission all on its own. We didn't blink the entire time he was on stage banging away at his symbols. It was intense, dominating, and compelling, and the tension is caused was frenetic. There's so much emotion behind the scene that it is palpable to the audience. As we mentioned above, we want Andrew to come into his own as an artist, but feel for what he has to go through to get to be the best. According to IMDb, Teller has played the drums since he was 15, but really did get blisters and bleed during filming. He was also slapped by J.K. Simmons in one scene early on in the film, which just shows how far he was willing to go for this role. Simmons is Teller's biggest supporter and also his arch nemesis. Each and every time they are together, the hairs on the back of our necks would stand up straight...their chemistry was profound and brilliantly captured.

The cinematography and imagery in this movie is absolutely outstanding as well. Beyond the fact that the camera obviously focuses on Miles Teller or J.K. Simmons when they are on screen, audiences get to see the entire band from side to side many times during the film, mostly on cue with the music. It is deliberate, and the camera angles and cuts that are made are just stellar. As we mentioned above, there is no lack of blood, sweat, and tears, which turned out to be mostly real, and the imagery is almost burned into your brain to show just how serious Andrew really is at wanting to succeed at being a drummer. The attention to detail is great and much of the film focuses on the little things like drops of blood and beads of sweat dripping across symbols and snares. Every part of this movie makes you feel something. Beyond the music, which is fantastic, there are lots of noticeable noises and acts associated with a band that were left in the film: releasing, dripping spit from valves, the inhalation of a breath before playing a note, feedback from an amplifier, toe tapping...and we swear we could smell the resin in the air. This movie is the ultimate immersive experience, and you wouldn't know it just by looking at it.

You do not need to be a fan of jazz music to find this movie interesting. It's more about the sacrifices one man is willing to make in the pursuit of greatness. This film is definitely one you must see!!!

My Rating: 10/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!
One year ago, we were watching: "About Time"

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