This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Everly Jazi.
In a scene from “Whiplash,” blood spurts out of aspiring drummer Andrew Neyman’s sore hands as he grips his beloved drumsticks, playing the same measure he has practiced for weeks.
Aside from the drum kit and mattress Andrew pulls inside, the room is a bare prison where he works to become the best jazz drummer in history.
“Whiplash,” which has already received two awards at the Sundance Film Festival, follows the first-year jazz student Andrew (Miles Teller) as he endures massive pains, like those displayed by this scene, while attempting to join a studio band at the fictional Shaffer Music Conservatory.
As Andrew spends hours over his drumset, perfecting his work with maniacal precision, “Whiplash” exposes the music industry as a demanding and controlling powerhouse, a complete contrast to the creative, glamorous environment portrayed in the mainstream.
The studio band Andrew hopes to join is led by conductor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a machine-like perfectionist with a selfish, obsessive and intimidating personality who comes to represent the harsh truth of the industry.
As Andrew plays for the conductor for the first time, Fletcher gives the audience a glimpse at his caring side by genuinely saying, “Just do your best.” But as soon as Andrew misses a beat, Fletcher responds by throwing a chair at his head.
Throughout the movie, the audience is stunned by the behavior of each character and the absurd but realistic plot that feeds on its own addictive outrageousness. The audience joins in Andrew’s struggle as he works toward becoming one of the greats, while also losing his sanity.
Director Damien Chazelle leaves the audience battling the question: Is it worth going crazy if great art results?
Teller’s performance was crucial to the film’s success. The actor surprised the film team with a talent for drumming and was able to play throughout the film without a stunt double. Teller conveys a seemingly shy and vulnerable character who again and again proves his resilience and strength – his aggressive but hilarious one-liners adding humor to the dark film.
During a dinner party with family friends, Andrew is overshadowed by a football star student, who urges Andrew to “come play with us.”
“Four words you’ll never hear from the NFL,” Andrew quips back.
Simmons also gives an outstanding performance, creating the perfect balance of rage and charm to portray Fletcher. His unrelenting character leaves the audience both intimidated by Fletcher’s intensity and in awe of his dedication.
Chazelle’s vision for the film, inspired by his own experience as part of a jazz studio band in high school, translates into the perfect thriller, leaving audience members gripping their seats in anticipation throughout each lengthy drum solo.
The riveting plot, a relentless take on the music industry, will leave viewers thinking long after the film, still uneasy from its 2-hour adrenaline rush.
Released: Oct. 17
Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Miles Teller (“The Spectacular Now”), J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man”), Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser (“Life After Beth”)