Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014)

Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser

A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student's potential.

I hated this. It shows - if we didn't already know - that what drummers do has nothing to do with the art of music.

Chazelle imagines the drill sergeant from Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket as Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) a teacher at a prestigious music school who will stop at nothing to pursue his dream, which is to find a brilliant student who will stop at nothing to pursue theirs. Enter 19-year-old Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) who is prepared to literally bleed all over his drum set. From the first scene Whiplash establishes a fraught relationship between Neyman and Fletcher that the remainder of the film coasts on. ... The story is essentially about achieving success by being pushed to the brink. The point, perhaps, is that in a world full of people who try and hope, it takes a special kind of lunatic to rise to the top. Similarly the film itself moves like a high-powered beast — bold and brave, with a whiff of crazy genius about it. Luke Buckmaster, Daily Review.

More frustrating still is Chazelle’s tendency to defer to screenwriting convention for the sake of a more ‘well-rounded’ (read: more clichéd) film: a perfunctory girlfriend destined to be discarded on Andrew’s road to jazz mastery is an especially tiresome concession to a Hollywood template, but even scenes with Andrew’s father feel like so much fat. Calum Marsh, Sight and Sound.

Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 26 July, 2018 | Now: 26 July, 2018