WHIPLASH (2014)

Whiplash-Scream

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Best Picture – Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster
  • Best Supporting Actor – J.K. Simmons
  • Best Film Editing – Tom Cross
  • Best Sound Mixing – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley
  • Best Adapted Screenplay – Damien Chazelle

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

I didn’t like Whiplash because you can argue that the winners of the movie are two things I hate: jazz and total assholes.

The movie follows Andrew (Miles Teller), a student at an apparently prestigious music school. He, and everyone else (including other professors), practically shit themselves every time professor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) shows up. Why? Because he’s brilliant? Maybe? All we know is he has some kind of special jazz band class that he asks Andrew to join, only to continually torture him by yelling at him until he cries, slapping him, and making him play until his hands bleed, among other things.

Eventually, Andrew and the band are at a music competition, which Andrew is late to because his bus broke down. When he gets there, Fletcher tells him that his part will be going to someone else as Andrew is late and doesn’t have his drumsticks. Realizing he left his drumsticks at the car rental place he used to get there, Andrew promises Fletcher he’ll be right back and rushes to pick them up, only to be broadsided by a truck on his way back. He crawls out of the car and runs the rest of the way to the competition, bloody and nearly crying, just in time. But he can’t really play (it seems like one of his hands is broken), so Fletcher makes him leave. Because this is the culmination of all the literal blood, sweat, and tears he’s put in and Fletcher doesn’t seem to care, Andrew attacks him on stage and is then kicked out of school.

A lawyer approaches Andrew and asks him to testify against Fletcher, because a former student of his killed himself and the depression only started once he was in Fletcher’s class. Andrew agrees, and though we never see him testify or how it comes to Fletcher, we can assume Fletcher is fired. Months later, Andrew passes a jazz bar that is promoting Fletcher, so he (for some reason) goes in to watch. Fletcher spots him and they have drinks (again, for some reason), and Fletcher tells him he was fired from the school because an unknown student testified against him, and then invites Andrew to perform with his band at a jazz festival. Aaaaaaaand for some reason, Andrew agrees. However, while on stage at the festival seconds before their performance starts, Fletcher tells Andrew he knows it was him who testified and leads the band in a piece that Andrew has never heard of or been given sheet music for. Andrew leaves the stage humiliated, only to come back a few seconds later to start playing one of the harder pieces from Fletcher’s class. Andrew leads the band in the song, and the movie ends with a drum solo.

So, yeah, why should we care about any of this? There are essentially only two characters here, Andrew and Fletcher. All we know about Andrew is that he is a young music student, he’s a good drummer, he’s close with his father, and he doesn’t have many friends. At one point, he asks a girl on a date. We see that date and it goes okay. A little bit later, we see Andrew break up with her (even though it seems like they only went on that one okay date) because he thinks she’s going to prevent him from being successful. Then Andrew invites her to the jazz festival at the end via telephone, only to find out she has a boyfriend. We never see her again, and her presence means absolutely nothing and is unbelievably pointless to the story. All we know about Fletcher is that he is a jazz musician and an insane monster. Is he a brilliant jazz musician? I guess? We’re really just supposed to assume that – it’s never proven to us. The entire movie is a cycle of scenes of Andrew trying really hard, Fletcher abusing him, and Andrew trying again. Over and over and over. And in the end . . .nothing happens? One could argue that Fletcher acted the way he did to bring out the brilliance and genius of his students (as he claims he does at point) and the entire movie is just to get Andrew to play this amazing drum solo in the end. But I don’t buy that. Fletcher is obviously out for revenge against Andrew, and when Andrew first leaves the stage at the festival, Fletcher seems very satisfied with that. So I don’t think Fletcher was a brilliant teacher, I think he was just a sadist who can read music. And even though Andrew sort of overcame Fletcher in the end, for what? He was still humiliated, he was still kicked out of the music school, and he was still just performing at a jazz festival. We don’t know that he found any kind of music success after the festival, and I think it’s safe to assume that he never will. And that’s why I think the only real winner was jazz itself (ugh) and at a close second would be Fletcher himself.

Yeah, J.K. Simmons was good and I really like him a lot. But he wasn’t given much to work with. His character was so one-dimensional it was like a caricature. And Miles Teller was pretty good, too, but had the same problem – he was pretty good because his character didn’t do much but get tortured. I know Whiplash started as a short film and it really should have stuck with that; you can get away with one-note characters much easier in a short film. Whiplash has also gotten really good reviews (it currently has a 95 on Rotten Tomatoes and an 88 on Metacritic), but I truly don’t understand why. It’s not like this was a bad looking or shoddily put together film, but it really didn’t accomplish anything and was really hard to watch.

Christopher

This was one of the most repetitive movies we’ve watched for these Oscar nominations. Student works hard, teacher yells at him; student works hard, teacher yells at him; student works hard, teacher yells at him. This movie just reminded me of all the shitty baseball coaches I had to deal with when I was younger and how just yelling at someone really doesn’t help them succeed at all. Fuck people that think it can. I’m glad I don’t have to sit through this one again.

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