Music is a strange world to me. I have virtually no understanding, talent, or insight into the art. However, like with movies, I know what I like.
I like Whiplash. Very much.
The movie is about a young man named Andrew Neiman who attends one of the best music schools in the nation. He is eventually discovered by Terence Fletcher. Terence leads a studio band, and he graciously invites Andrew to come audition to be an alternate for the drummer. Andrew is very good, but Fletcher quickly becomes a monster when Andrew can’t satisfy his demands. Fletcher demoralizes not just Andrew but his entire band; he verbally and physically abuses them; he spouts obscenities at them and calls them derogatory names. Yet, Fletcher’s studio band is among the best. Because of this, Andrew refuses to quit.
In fact, Andrew grows resolute with each passing day, enduring Fletcher’s brutal methods and, sadly, even adopting some of them. The two men aspire to greatness. One of them wants to inspire such greatness, the other want to be the greatest.
But as you can imagine such, a toxic relationship quickly sours. The question is, will Andrew allow Terence to subdue his passion, or will Andrew overcome the vile conductor and achieve his ambitions?
I enjoyed three things in particular about his film. First, J.K. Simmons plays Terence Fletcher in such a charismatic, terrifying way that I couldn’t hate him, but I also couldn’t like him. He was like a force of nature, a man who knows what he wants and is willing to destroy anything to get it. There is something both horrifying and admirable about such a man.
Secondly, the music sounded amazing. Terence’s studio band is all horns, piano, and percussion – nothing electronic – and it simply astounded. Of course, Andrew plays the drums, and so we get to hear lots of him pounding away. I’m always amazed how a talented drummer can make beautiful music. As stated earlier, I’m no music expert, but what I saw and heard impressed me to no end.
Finally, the film’s tone resonated the most with me. There exists in this movie a mostly unstated drive to achieve supremacy. Sure, it is directly declared, at times, by both Terence and Andrew, but so much of this movie conveys the men’s hunger through their eyes, their face, their physical actions, and their (to be frank) outbursts, that it inspired me to try harder. It reminded me that to stand out and to rise above takes blood, sweat, uncompromising time, and an unbreakable will. I’m not sure I have it in me to reach their mania, nor am I sure I want to, but Whiplash certainly helped me remember that preeminence doesn’t just happen.
Whiplash delivers a captivating story, provides breathtaking music, displays a master in J.K. Simmons, and, in the end, plucks a primal chord within us all.