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Whiplash – Joint Review


Release Date: 16 January 2015 [UK]
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Miles Teller - J.K. Simmons - Melissa Benoist

Posted January 15, 2015 by

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Whiplash – Joint Review

Sedef’s Perspective:

With awards season well and truly upon us, the films that are going to be the big winners of 2015 are beginning to make themselves clear. Whiplash has been causing a stir pretty much ever since its trailer first hit the screens and as I write this review J.K. Simmons has won a Golden Globe for what may well be one of the best performances of his career. The film itself has done very well, apart from the Golden Globes, the film has multiple nominations for BAFTAS and prestigious festivals like Cannes under its belt… And with the Oscars now just around the corner (the nominations for the 2015 Oscars had not been announced at the time this review was written) who knows what may be coming up next. Personally I think the film deserves every honour it is given – and especially J.K. Simmons. Let me endeavour to explain why I say that.

Whiplash is the story of one, young , exceptional drummer, Andrew Niemann (Miles Teller) and his equally exceptional teacher, Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Andrew is a first year student at one of the country’s best and most cut-throat conservatories. Fletcher is the best teacher in the academy and being in his Studio Band is one of the greatest honours a jazz musician in the academy can hope to achieve. This honour lands in Andrews lap quite unexpectedly one evening. But stepping up to play with the big boys means stepping up your game. Fletcher seems prepared to push his players over the edge and beyond both physically and mentally. As Andrew puts family loyalties, his girlfriend, his health and bit by bit his sanity to one side in quest for his goal, the question slowly becomes will he actually survive Fletchers lessons…

One of the sure fire signs that Whiplash achieves what it sets out to is possibly the fact that I, amongst quite a few other fellow spectators, left the cinema head spinning and emotionally drained. The character of Fletcher is a wonderful study of a bully and J.K. Simmons performance throughout is… Well… I don’t have enough superlatives to describe it with. Magnificient. Extraordinary. The beauty of it is that the focus of his anger and energy, Miles Teller, plays a superb everyman with whom we can very easily empathize. It helps infinitely that he is not tall, blonde and ripped – he is just a regular guy who comes from a single parent family and is very close to his dad… Ok maybe not that ordinary… The result is a titanic clash of wills – and you inevitably will think Fletcher is bullying Andrew and the whole thing is doomed – but I urge you to watch the film until the end. This is not the story of a bully and his victim. This is the story of a young artist overcoming one of the greatest potential obstacles to his own greatness – insecurity and self-doubt.

The other thing I truly love about this film is the fact that it brings several things that films about artists and rises to fame do NOT usually focus on to light. The first, on a very basic level, is the drummer. Usually lost behind his kit and considered slightly weird (I distinctly remember the great Ozzy Osbourne himself once say you had to doubt anyone who gained a living basically by hitting animal skins for hours). In short, unless you are Ringo Star, drummers tend not get too much of the mainstream lime light, so it’s a refreshing new angle on an age old story. But secondly, it’s not a nice, pretty rise to stardom story. You know, we don’t super cut through the tough rehearsals and fast forward to the competition. The whole playing until your knuckles bleed, rehearsals, getting yelled at for five hours straight by your teacher, losing friends and loved ones to your vocation, those parts tend to get glossed over a tad in films like this. Not in Whiplash. We take a long hard look at the blood, sweat and tears that go into a career in art.

On another note (see what I did there) a note simply must be made of the soundtrack – it’s a toe-tapping delight for anyone who likes jazz. It makes a very good counter-point in what has a tendency to be a rather dark film at times.

In short, Whiplash is an emotional and musical roller coaster that will undoubtedly keep critics tongues wagging for a while yet this awards season… I strongly urge you to make it one of the films you watch this awards season…

Written By: 

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 18.55.20

Sedef Hekimgil
Essie Speaks
Full Contributor


Cookie’s Perspective:

Cinema and music have many things in common. But the most vital component of both of them is that they similarly provide an experience. The kind of experience that really moves you. As goosebumps slide down your neck, the beat of your heart causing your brow to feverishly sweat and you gasp, cheer and yell. The best experiences come from a ferocious films or an even more powerful concert. So imagine a film that impeccably combines the pair? Because going into Whiplash, and in the moments after, you won’t feel the same. This experience is life changing.

The story follows wannabe jazz drummer Andrew Neyman who has been accepted into the prestigious Schaffer School, one of the best in the country. Shy, unassuming and without friends, Neyman practises around the clock to perfect his craft. When top tutor Terence Fletcher catches him performing, he invites Andrew to play with the studio band. However, Fletcher’s style of teaching is abusive and unrelenting. As Andrew struggles to balance his career and his social life, all prevailing to be “one of the greats,” he will be pushed to complete breaking point.

Whiplash is an entire beast of a film that bites into your flesh and refuses to let go. That beast comes in the form of commanding actor J.K. Simmons. Probably better known for Juno and The Spiderman Series, Simmons has completely shed any pre-delusions of his skill and smashed them like Andrew’s dreams on the drum-kit. As he screams, yells and shouts abuse at his players (Neyman is not the only one caught on the wrong end of his range,) Simmons transforms into this powerful character that you want to hate solely but cannot find the full sense of loathing. Here is where Simmons thrives. As monstrous as Fletcher becomes, as far to the edge he has pushed people, he still retains shreds of humanity that comes through in drags. Fletcher is an utterly captivating and realised character that Simmon triumphantly brings to life in his dominant performance.

As impeccable as J.K. Simmons is (and I dare you to find a fault in this magnificent role), Miles Teller is able to hold his own as protagonist Andrew. In fact, Neyman and Fletcher are two entangling characters that shape and shift under different situations. Teller is endearing at first, with his passion that slowly unravels to near madness. And as much as you want to blame Fletcher, it is clear that at times Andrew is at fault for pushing himself too far. Miles is able to dash a prodigy with a balance of will and arrogance that makes you similar hate and love him all at once. Teller stands tall against the shit that Simmons is screaming at him, it’s evocative and engaging to watch.

The direction is able to hold the fury and the passion, translating it through blistering imagery and concise story telling. Written by Damien Chazelle, Whiplash captures an essence of musician and subsequent art that has never been focused on before – the brutality of teaching and the carving of the genius. Chazelle’s directing never loses this tempo, throwing the audience and Neyman into Fletcher’s wrath early. Yet Chazelle simmers when it is needed then builds up momentum in shocking ways. Enhancing the film with these shocking and trembling images and exquisite cinematography, the director has done something fresh, intense and, in many ways, disturbing.

Whiplash is one of those films you must see. The adverse effects of “critical acclaim” may cause you to reverse away from it. But every praise for this film is on point and you cannot afford to have it missing. The delirious after effects that stay tingling within you is undeniably fierce. It will grab you in its blood grasps and taking you to places of humanity that you wouldn’t know suffered for art. But Whiplash isn’t a film.

It’s a goddamn experience.

Written By:

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 20.14.43

Cookie N Screen –
Freelance Contributor


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One Comment


    Nice, i like your review btw, and the movie as well. Keep up the good work

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