Review - Whiplash

Whiplash (2014), R, 107 minutes - Whiplash is a very unique film, one that looks at what happens when a talented young musician is paired with a hard-assed and abusive instructor.

Andrew (Miles Teller) is a first year drumming student at a prestigious music conservatory where he first catches the ear of Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), who then invites him to join his Jazz ensemble as an alternate.  Andrew can tell from the get go that Fletcher is cut throat and a perfectionist but he is driven to earn his instructor's approval.  What becomes evident to the viewer is that while Fletcher is tough on all of his musicians, he truly lets the most talented ones - Andrew in particular - have it.  Pushing and pushing and pushing them towards perfection.  Their conflict becomes personal and even causes Andrew to quit drumming for a short time.  Their temporary reconciliation is just an example of the lengths Fletcher is willing to push the abuse, driving Andrew from the stage mid-performance before his determination marches him back to his drum kit from behind which he has the proverbial last laugh.

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons both give wonderful performances, Teller as the student striving for greatness and Simmons as the sometimes encouraging, sometimes motivational, but always aggressive conductor.  Simmons has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category this year (and very well may win).  In any other year Teller may have snagged a nomination as well, but the acting categories are absolutely stacked this year.  The film has also received four other Oscar nominations from the Academy including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Editing, and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing.

You hear stories about abusive coaches who feel as though they are doing what is necessary to get the best out of their students, but generally those stories come from the world of sports.  Whiplash's story is just as emotional and harrowing and shows that such a competitive world can extend beyond the lines of the playing field or the world of business.  This is an excellent film, one that will likely keep any viewer on the edge of their seat, especially if they have ever experienced the coach/player dynamic.

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