Whiplash (2014)

Director:  Damien Chazelle
Writer:  Damien Chazelle (screenplay)
Stars: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist
Running Time:  107 mins

You just might get whiplash from this incredibly intense film about a passionate music school teacher who pushes his students beyond their limits and sometimes right over the edge.  

J.K. Simmons ferociously plays Terrence Fletcher the high-strung foul mouthed instructor at the Shafter Conservatory of Music in New York City where he trolls the hauls looking for the students with the most potential for his master Studio Band classroom.  Revered by his students, they also fear him, so much so that they can barely meet his gaze when called upon to defend their performances.  Even other teachers quickly step aside when Fletcher barges into their classrooms to assess the students.  

The film jumps right in with Fletcher spotting Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), a promising drummer and invites him to attend his class. The 19 year old freshman is honored until the class and practice sessions become nothing but blood, sweat and tears, literally, and Fletcher hurls every abuse imaginable at the kid who’s trying hard to become the best drummer ever.  

Fletcher likes to tell the story of how jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd became the great “Byrd” by having a cymbal thrown at his head to wake him the hell up and practice.  It’s clear his passion is to develop great talent and it’s clear his ego won’t stand for any less than perfect student screwing up his chances to win big competitions.  

It becomes a no-holds barred approach to see if Andrew can withstand the abuse and rise to the level of greatness that Fletcher suspects is in him.  “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.“, Fletcher announces.  

Miles Teller has been playing drums since the age of 15 and for this movie he practiced 4 hours a day and splattered his own blood in the film’s exhausting sequences.  He’s terrific, committed physically and emotionally.   

Lotta says Whiplash is a rush. The only break you get from the intensity are the sweet scenes with Andrew’s short-term girlfriend Nicole (Melissa Benoist) and movie night with his supportive father played by Paul Reiser.  Loved the screenplay; loved the performances, loved the music!