Along with The Theory of Everything, this was my most anticipated Oscar tipped movie so I had to see it before the ceremony on 22nd February. I'm definitely making the most of the Unlimited Cinema Card this month!! (For those not UK based, a local cinema here in the UK does an Unlimited card that means you can go as many times as you like for a monthly fee!)
When I went to see The Imitation Game last November, we had trailers for almost every other Oscar bait films. It was the first time I saw American Sniper, and realised I held my breath throughout the whole trailer. Typically, I missed that one and won’t get a chance now till the DVD release. When I saw the Whiplash trailer however, I laughed. So did the rest of the cinema. How could they make a drama out of a kid playing drums?
Andrew (Miles Teller) is a promising drummer who is attending Shaffer conservatory, the best music programme in the US. He is hand picked by Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons) the most respected professor at the school for his studio band. Fletcher shows no remorse for bullying and intimidating his students to be great which pushes Andrew to near obsession to be the best.
I think I held my breath for this whole film, I was on the edge of my seat willing Andrew to succeed and for Fletcher to give him a break. I was so involved in the movie, I very nearly shouted at the screen, cheered and clapped along with Andrew's journey, I felt like part of it myself. I thought I knew where the story was heading from one scene to the next and I was promptly proved wrong, it twisted and turned on itself, by the end I had no idea what to expect.
According to IMDB, Whiplash is one of the lowest grossing movies ever to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It’s also part of a huge debate as to whether it should be classed as an Original or Adapted Screenplay, although the Academy are adamant that it’s Adapted. I can see the story from both sides really. Whiplash started out as a short movie at Sundance (and won), and that’s the reason it’s fallen under Adapted Screenplay. But after some further research, I found out that they only released the short film in order to generate funds to make the feature length movie - the plot thickens....
JK Simmons was incredible and truly terrifying as Professor Fletcher, I was willing Andrew to do better to avoid him having to glare at him or throw something. He had me on the edge of my seat and didn't falter from his alter-ego for even a second. Miles Teller was a close second but nonetheless brilliant (it's hard to believe he only learnt to play the drums for this film!!), his steely determination to be the best is portrayed through (literal) blood, sweat and tears makes you sympathise with him to a certain degree but his inability to see beyond his success limits his likability.
Is there an actor out there who looks exactly like Miles Teller? I could have sworn I’d seen him in a few things, but after checking out his filmography, apparently I must be thinking of someone else (he was in That Awkward Moment?!). Anyway, I thought he was brilliant in this. Although I was rooting for him, he wasn’t a completely likeable character. He’s lived in the shadow of his brothers all his life it seems, and his parents don’t understand his aspirations as a musician. His treatment of Nicole was uncalled for though, and he’s too cocky. He will stop at nothing to get what he wants however, which is admirable if nothing else.
J.K. Simmons on the other hand, absolutely blew me away. He’s the only actor who’s ever made me laugh out loud, and then sh*t my pants in the same minute, if you’ll excuse the expression. Terence is a character you love to hate. Every scene he was in, I was holding my breath waiting for him to just explode. Simply amazing!
The songs used throughout the movie, in the studio band, were perfect for this. Caravan particularly showed how hard Fletcher could be on his students, lining up three drummers to sweat and bleed for hours to reach the 'his' tempo - the whole scene had me on edge waiting to see if he was going to snap or just keep making them play. It was worse that a horror movie!
Without ruining the ending for anyone, the credits took me by complete surprise and I could help but cry ‘Noooo!’ because I just didn’t want it to end. I wanted to see the reaction to what had just happened! Whiplash is one of the most intense films I have ever seen. I might not have been able to appreciate the musical academic parts, but it was still one hell of a ride.
Brilliant casting and a twist and turning story of fear, pride and the will to succeed no matter what.