This past week I finally hit the last of the Oscar movies. Whiplash was the remaining movie on my list of movies that I HAD to see from 2014. If you hadn’t already heard of it, it’s that movie that has Miles Teller playing drums and getting screamed at by a very intimidating JK Simmons. It was a limited release movie and I wasn't able to find it in theaters when it first came out. So I had to find it on my Xbox Video Store and rent it. I was definitely not disappointed in that decision.
If I could be so bold, I would say this was the best movie of 2014. I know I've said that after every movie I have reviewed the past couple weeks, but I actually mean it this time (I’m sure I said that after the other ones as well). I put it in a notch above The Imitation Game, Birdman, the Theory of Everything, and even The Boxtrolls (how dare I tear down such a precious film…).
Now this could be because I grew up playing drums and I've experienced my fair share of tense moments attempting to play a song while a teacher screamed at me (not to the extent of this movie, but still), so this movie may have hit me on a more personal level. Regardless, the style, the music, the acting, all of it was just plain superb.
First of all, Miles Teller was the perfect selection as the protagonist in this movie. I’m sure they were looking for an actor who could portray vulnerability while at the same time withholding a deep bad-assery within him… they found him in Miles Teller. Miles takes his role and completely owns it. I believed every moment of it. He plays Andrew (yes, I’m serious) Neimann, a young and very talented drummer who is attending a prestigious music academy. In the beginning, he is toiling away in beginning music classes, but somehow he catches the eye of the most respected professor at the school (Terrance Fletcher played incredibly by JK Simmons) and ends up being recruited to back-up the current drummer in Fletcher’s advanced Jazz band class. That’s essentially the synopsis of the movie. The rest of the film depicts the intense struggle between Andrew and Fletcher as Fletcher tries to get the most out of Andrew’s obvious drumming skills.
I’m not going to lie to you…this film is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to an almost extreme sense. The moments where Teller’s character is striving to do exactly what JK Simmons’ is attempting to get out of him are some of the most tense and nauseating moments I've ever seen depicted on film. Simmons doesn't hold back any punches. He completely tears into Miles Teller in an almost over-the-top and extremely personal way. Through blood and sweat and tears, Andrew is trying.You can tell what he’s trying to do; he obviously sees something special in Andrew and is trying to tap into it. But at the same time, you can’t help but wonder whether or not his methods are not…well…unnecessary and cruel. Yet, somehow, you still can’t find a reason to hate Simmons’ character…even after everything he does to Andrew in this movie.
They took the guy who did this in Spiderman:
And turned him into this:
And if you remember correctly, JK Simmons was nominated AND won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Fletcher in Whiplash. That Oscar was deserved more than perhaps any Oscar that was won this past year. I've never seen such an incredibly perfect role for an actor. It’s almost like JK Simmons was born to play this role. I couldn't imagine anyone else playing it and not coming across as a complete douche-bag. You have to tow a very fine line playing an ambitious, jack-ass, over-the-top teacher and still be able to maintain a sense of audience understanding. Anyone else would’ve essentially made you hate the character and not understand the motivations behind his teaching methods. Not Simmons. He takes the role, embraces it, makes you hate him, makes you love him, makes you root for him…etc. I just can’t even figure out how he was able to do that. This could be one of the most incredible acting performances I've seen since Heath Ledger as the Joker (is that blasphemy…perhaps). Keep an eye on JK Simmons…we will be seeing a lot more of him because of Whiplash.
Now, I've said enough about the acting. Let’s go over a few over things that made this movie so incredibly genius. The music in Whiplash is also superb and fits the setting and tone of the movie perfectly. It’s so well done that I've even found myself listening to the soundtrack a work numerous times. As you could imagine, it’s a very jazzy style of music. One of the main numbers is actually called Whiplash, a song that Andrew spends most of the movie trying to perfect and yes, the name of the movie (OMG THEY SAID THE NAME OF THE MOVIE IN THE MOVIE…4th WALL…HOW METTA…OMG).
On the topic of music, I’m fairly certain they used actual musicians for the roles in this movie. I know for a fact that Miles Teller plays the drums and plays most of the music in the movie. And may I say…THAT IS INCREDIBLE. The sheer difficulty of some of the songs he is attempting…as a drummer I can truly respect. I was in awe.
OK, I’m going to take a breath now.
Can you tell I loved this movie? I truly did. I want to marry it. Please see it. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE SEE IT. You’ll not have a more incredible movie experience for a long-time, I guarantee it.