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Whiplash

The majority of people that strive to be great at something will never come close to attaining the level of perfection that they strive for.  They don’t have the talent, and they don’t have the drive and passion to achieve such things.  Being the greatest athlete of their generation, becoming the President of the United States, becoming one of the truly great musicians of our time….these things will never happen for 99.999999% of us.  Whiplash is an exploration of what it truly takes to be great, and how one kid pushes himself, aided by a prick of a teacher who may just help him get there.

Miles Teller plays Andrew Neiman, a first year Shaffer Conservatory Jazz drummer student.  Andrew wants to be one of the greats.  He idolizes Buddy Rich and Charlie Parker and all the great ones.  He believes he has it in him to be just like them.  Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons) is the head music teacher at the school.  He strives for perfection and accepts nothing less from his students.  He makes his students cry.  He humiliates them and throws them out of class if they screw up, or are out of tune.  He’s a complete asshole basically, but he knows that anything less than perfection isn’t worth it.  It’s just going through the motions and what’s the point of that?

Fletcher praises Andrew at first, but soon begins to test him and taunt him by bringing other drummers into the band to sit in for him.  These drummers don’t have the skill or drive that Andrew has and he knows it.  He just can’t understand why Fletcher is doing this to him.  It’s not clicking with him.  Meanwhile Andrew has his own life and problems to deal with.  He tries to spend time with his Dad (Paul Reiser), and share his time with his girlfriend as well.  He makes his mind up though that to be great, to truly be one of the great ones, everything else but drumming is just a distraction.

Whiplash is about the relationship between Andrew and Fletcher and the conflict that arises between the both of them.  They both want the same thing in the end, but getting there seems to be impossible.  Maybe Andrew doesn’t have what it takes.  Maybe Fletcher is trying to bring it out of him in the wrong way.

Whiplash sort of just plods along for a while as we get to know both these characters, and I didn’t really see where they were going with the story at first.  It’s when we get to that “a-ha” point that the film really kicks in to overdrive and shows that it is one of (if not the) best films of the year.

J.K. Simmons is fantastic, terrifying, and hated during most of the film.  One of the most interesting parts of the film to me was how much of a villain Fletcher is, yet he commands respect.  You have to appreciate someone who has devoted his life to perfecting a craft.  There is tremendous passion there, and the great ones were always misunderstood. I’ve always like Miles Teller as well, and he shows his range here in a way he has never done before.

Whiplash is easily one of the best films of the year, and I look forward to seeing it again.  It’s that sort of film that stays with you and brings you back to it.

Grade: A+