Whiplash – 4.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

whiplashWhiplash – 4.5/5 – It goes without saying; character films are some of my favorite kind to watch.  One thing that makes them amazing is that they are carried by three things:

Dialogue, acting and raw emotional overtones

No matter if it has to do with love, revenge or something of fantasy; when a film’s heart is about their characters it makes the film all more wondrous.  That is the case for Whiplash.  A film about the pressures of being great and pushing yourself to the limits, it is a showcase of two powerful performance with a story that some can relate to on some scale.  Whiplash is an amazing character film, one that is wholesomely the most intense thing I have seen in this early part of 2015.

Premise:  The promising young drummer (Andrew) enrolls in an intense music class; where the teacher (Fletcher) will stop at nothing to pulling out the realizing truth of his student’s potential.

There are supporting characters, and the usual ‘background’ colorful crowds, but this film is about the main lead and his co-lead in the film.  That would be Miles Teller as Andrew and J.K. Simmons as Fletcher.  Andrew is a first year student that get’s pulled into Fletcher’s class because of his ‘potential’ on the drums.  That is the basis of their relationship.  This is also what defines the story, direction and character development.  In short, these two actors give the best performance of their acting career.  When it comes to the main lead of Andrew, Miles Teller providers us with a fragile but determined individual.  He has characteristics that are molded in the ideas of hope, struggle and perseverance.   He has a goal set in his mind; to be the most amazing drummer in the world and prove all his naysayers.  That persistent thought pushes through every aspect of his life; create a complex of steadfast purpose with blinders.  What this ideal does is blind him from the realities of the situation that supersedes him.  That blindness creates a dilemma on both a humanity and personal scale.  Putting to risk relationships (no matter if it is family or intimate) for that goal creates the illusion of grandeur.  At the same time, that flaw helps him find new heights, creating a good front with his battle against a person that pushes him towards that goal.  This would be his teacher, Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons.  In this role, he gives an award winning performance.  His maniacal behavior is ironically subdued to the point of being cunning.   That viciousness in subtlety creates the allure of trust for his students, where they will believe his ways but resent his in a tyrannical tactics.  As much as he professes greatness throughout his words and musical quips, he struggles with it through an arrogant persona.  You see that he makes his own flaw the hook; showing his ‘cards’ long enough to reel his students (and the audience) in and then put you on humiliated display.  The crazy thing of his tactics is to show proof of the purchase; is his students (specific here Andrew) one of the greats or just living a lie.  That maniacal perspective creates a great relationship that is visceral, keen and outright insane.  The characters of Andrew and Fletcher engage in a way that pushes both of them through their flawed personas, making them wanting to prevail through each other.  What you find here is some of the best characterization through their acting; showing that it can be found in the purity of the delivery of lines, interactions and uttermost humanistic layers they display.

The direction of this film is reliant on two things: Script and acting.  With the basis being rooted in characterization, you cannot have greatness without intertwining these two.  In short, this film does an amazing job in rooting a simplistic story within a rooted complex within two characters.  Each of the two characters (Andrew and Fletcher) sees the other as a rival against an idea, but at the same time they see real purpose for each other.  The film starts off with the Andrew.  He is a first year student who has enrolled in prestigious music/art college.  Here, he is working towards one goal; being recognized as one of best drummers in the world.  Within one of his solo practice session, he gets noticed by one of the teachers of the school, Fletcher.  From their first interaction, you notice he is a man looking for the next great musician; the one that will stand out from his class and can be remembered for the same ideal thing that Andrew wants.  With the crossing of fate, it leads this film down the road that pushes us towards deeply rooted social issues along with personal ones.  At the core, the term of ‘how far will you go’ when it comes to personal gain is the basic thread of these two within the film’s main story.  The layering comes with the added modern context of social issues of ‘depression/anxiety’ and ‘teacher/student relationship’.  With this molding of strong themes, it helps provide an allure of blurring convictions.  At the heart, the way that Fletcher teaches is menacing.  The strange thing is that you can see a sense of truth in his methods.  In comparable value, you watch as Andrew struggles with his own anxiety of personal worth and life.  In that intertwining emotional cord, he sees that the menacing is hurtful but has purpose.  You know he hates the methods, but he sees another ‘mountain’ to climb within Fletcher.  That dynamic is a carrying force of the story.  It drives you to feel the moving sensation of the tone and themes.  This film is so intense to watch, that the relative sensations of it being dialogue driven creates a deeper attachment to the character and progression of the film.  As you go along, the ‘rabbit hole’ grows deeper for Andrew, as he gets completely enraptured by the ‘tyrant like’ methods of Fletcher.  This leads to a tipping point where the film hits ‘moments’ of raw emotional and physical torture; it pushes both to their limits.  This fractures their relationship, leading to a domino effect that ripples through some dire consequences.  As this happens, there is ‘reflection’ in the moments that happen right after, which leads us to the ultimate confrontation.  As we head into the final act of the film, the themes of ‘how far will you go’ and the ‘teacher/student’ complex morphs into a deeper ideology; something of a modern context of the biblical tale of ‘David vs. goliath.’  Can this ‘boy’ confront his ‘teacher’ on the battlefield of the ‘music stage’?  Can Fletcher’s ‘mighty’ maniacal methods and big ego be taken down with Andrew’s basic approach of his perseverance and ideal of being the best?   As this happens, you find that for all the bickering, physical and dialogue driven confrontations, they have a true connection between themselves.  The eye staring and the music is all just a rouse to the simplistic thought that; I can.  When this happens; the confrontation leads to a climax that is monumental.  That final moment, you get a sense of completeness; one where you see that both succeeds even if their own flaws lead them to this point in a roundabout way.   As amazing as this story was (as a whole) the one thing that causes it to drag is the side ‘love story’.  It is a forceful attempt to create some dynamic, but in actuality it distracts from the main purpose of the story.

Visually, this film is remarkable on a simple scale.  With the focus of the film on teaching, schools and music; we get an allure of this through the basic eye of a classroom, stage and normalcy of life.  That stationary aspect helps add depth by not distracting from the creation of it.  Leaving all the complexity to the story and characters, the cinematography is left with element of worth with being just the ‘background’.   The music of this film is blended with the story.  With the score; you get an intense arousal of emotions.  In that music, it pulls and pushes you along with the struggles of both the ‘teacher’ and ‘student’.

Whiplash is a character film that is derived from basic ideas of our worth, portrayed through the complexity of the teacher/student relationship.  At the heart of this film is its characters, and how they prove their worth against each other.  Some of the most amazing acting performance is on display in this film.  If you get a chance to check out this indie flick (blu ray or in theaters) I recommend it whole heartily.  It might be an intense watch, but it will satisfy you in the end.

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