There is nothing like a good showcase for actors, and Whiplash has not one, but two powerhouse performances. Miles Teller plays Andrew Neyman, a young jazz drummer and music student at a New York conservatory. Andrew gets enrolled by jazz band leader and teacher Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Fletcher likes to treat the young members of the band as if they were in the army, insulting them with gay slurs, saying they are worthless. Andrew gets slapped in front of his band mates. Fletcher throws things, like cymbals, stands and chairs at his pupils. To be able to keep up with Fletcher, Andrew is practicing so much that his hands are bloodied. And still, the gay slurs, the humiliation, the put downs, and the abuse goes on. Not only for Andrew, but other drummers and players as well. There is nothing to please the Fletcher monster. We get a glimpse into why it is so important to Andrew at a dinner with his father (Paul Reiser) and his brothers. As for Fletcher’s reasons for his aggressive behavior, it comes from the story of when a band leader threw a cymbal at Charlie Parker, and that forced Parker to become the musical genius now known as ‘Bird’. This is one of the best jazz film I have ever seen. That is because the drama is as strong as the music. Between the original score by Justin Hurwitz, the music played by Fletcher’s band, and the recordings of jazz legends (drummer Buddy Rich, for instance) there is a ton of great music in Whiplash. The least we can say is that Miles Teller’s work here is electrifying. J.K. Simmons is best known as J. Jonah Jameson from the Tobey Maguire’ Spider-Man trilogy. In Whiplash he gets a part that finally lets him chew the scenery. It is a great fun to watch. Let’s hope these two will be remembered come Oscar time. And with a great screenplay and directing, Damien Chazelle should not be overlooked.
You should know… Miles Teller has been drumming since he was 15 years old, but he took additional lessons 4 hours a day, 3 days a week to prepare for the movie. As a result, just like his character, he had blisters on his hands, and some of his blood was on the drumsticks and the drum set. During the more intense scenes, the director wouldn’t yell, “cut!” so that Teller would keep drumming until he was exhausted.
And the Oscar went to… I was so happy to see Whiplash win for J.K. Simmons who gave a powerhouse performance. But I was also cheering this small film’s two other awards that evening: Film editing and Sound mixing. Bravo! Whiplash rocks!