Hello and welcome to Ryan’s Movie Reviews!
Admittedly, there are loads of movies I haven’t seen. With this in mind, I made my way through IMDb’s Top 250 films of all time and added some to my watchlist and have begun to start watching them. The list includes some films such as Fight Club, The Usual Suspects and The Princess Bride. I aim to watch all 52 movies by this time next year. And the game was afoot. One which was on the list was 2014’s Whiplash, so I watched that first, as it was readily available on Netflix. I actually loved the film so much that it is now this week’s review.
From director Damien Chazelle (La La Land, First Man) and starring Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons is Whiplash. It tells the story of Andrew Neiman, a talented young drummer and a first-year jazz student at the Shaffer Conservatory. While practising, Terence Fletcher spots his talent and invites him to play in a more prestigious Studio Band. However, there is more to Fletcher than meets the eye. He is abusive and insulting towards his students. As Neiman tries to cope with the stress caused by trying to achieve perfection and living up to Fletcher’s high and harsh expectations, he is pushed to the brink of his ability and his sanity.
Miles Teller played Andrew Neiman and was well suited for the character. I found he was a little rigid in terms of his acting in a few scenes, but overall Teller played Neiman incredibly well. What’s more impressive is that there was no hand or body double to play the drums; it was all Miles Teller, who is a self-taught drummer. That epic drumming solo at the end? That was Miles Teller! The other lead in Whiplash was the ruthless teacher, Terence Fletcher, who was brilliantly played by J. K. Simmons. Simmons fully immersed himself in the role and delivered an award-winning performance. He rightfully won the tens of awards for his performance in Whiplash, including the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. There were other characters that weren’t main, such as Nicole (played by Melissa Benoist) and Andrew’s dad, Jim. Personally, Nicole could’ve been cut from the movie and it wouldn’t have changed anything. All it demonstrated was Andrew found love but had to break up with her because his drumming came first. There could have been some other way to show this, such as Andrew not going to the movies with his dad anymore as he had to focus on his drumming. On the subject of Andrew’s dad, Jim was a great character well played by Paul Reiser. I’m torn in two about his role, however, as he was crucial to the film in supporting Andrew, but could have had some more character development to him.
The music in Whiplash was absolutely brilliant! I loved it! I’ve had ‘Whiplash’ stuck in my head for days on end. The scene and song Fletcher played on the piano in the club was brilliantly done too, but the best scene and song for me had to go to the finale. Neiman plays an epic drum solo to Caravan where he completely proves his talent to Fletcher and the two exchange a cheeky proud smile before the film ends. It wasn’t the best ending (I’ll come to that later), but for what it was, it was a brilliant and neat ending for the film.
The storyline and plot were interesting. It was something that everyone could feel and relate to but still be shocked at the craziness of Fletcher. I liked the way that Chazelle brought the story to life on screen with the use of creative and interesting camera shots and the fantastic acting abilities of Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons.
There were a lot of moments that were so awesome to watch. I loved the opening with the first awkward encounter with Neiman and Fletcher, as it set the tone of the film immediately yet also left room for development and mystery. The next scene that was great to watch was when Neiman moved up to the Studio Band and was playing Whiplash when Fletcher threw the chair at Neiman, then slaps him and rebukes him for not playing at his tempo. The scene where Neiman loses the lead drummer’s music at a music competition then goes on to play ‘Whiplash’ perfectly from memory was awesome. Following this, Andrew is promoted from alternative drummer in the Studio Band to the core (main) drummer, but then we see a power struggle for the role core drummer between Neiman, Connelly (Neiman’s rival from his old band) and Carl (the old core in Studio Band). The three are subjected to a gruelling drum-off late at night with Fletcher hurling insults and getting violent towards the teens. Neiman eventually earns the part and is to play at another competition as the lead drummer. However, en route to the competition, Neiman’s bus breaks down, so he rents a car and arrives late to the event, but convinces Fletcher that he will play, despite the fact he has to rush back to the car rental dealership as he left his drumsticks there. While rushing back, Neiman is involved in an accident and is injured, but continues to make his way to the competition. With blood running down his face, Neiman plays but screws up and embarrasses himself and the Shaffer Conservatory. Fletcher tells Neiman that he’s out and turns to the audience to apologise, before Neiman tackles and attacks Fletcher. That entire piece of the film just left me at the edge of my seat. Both Neiman and Fletcher lose their respective places at the Shaffer Conservatory. Later on in the film, Neiman sees Fletcher playing at a jazz club, and after the performance, Fletcher invites Neiman to chat. Fletcher explains that he never produced a prodigy, like how Jo Jones did when he threw a cymbal at Charlie Parker’s head, which explains Fletcher’s harsh teaching methods. Fletcher then invites Neiman to play at an upcoming jazz festival with him. This leads to one of the best moments in the film. At the festival, Neiman is playing the drums but doesn’t have the sheet music to play, and this was intentionally done by Fletcher. Just when Neiman storms off the stage, he returns and begins to perform an epic rendition of Caravan. Fletcher is furious yet surprised. Neiman continues to play with the rest of the band and ignores Fletcher’s whispered threats to him. Neiman then goes on to perform an epic drum solo and Neiman and Fletcher share a smile before the finale. Admittedly, the ending could’ve been better, as it was a bit flat. That being said, I liked how it allowed the viewer to wonder after the film what would’ve happened after the film and how the film ended on a high note.
Overall, Whiplash gets an 8.6/10 from me. It was such an amazing film that I am looking forward to rewatching at some point. It was well directed, had interesting camera shots and awesome music as well as brilliant performances from J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller. Whiplash is definitely on my list of favourite movies, and for those looking to watch Whiplash, it’s currently on Netflix. I highly recommend watching it.
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Once again, thanks for reading this week’s review. Join me next week for a psychological thriller review. See you then!