Movie Review: Whiplash (2014)

Details: Less than two hours long. Stars Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, and Melissa Benoist.

One of the best parts of being an adult is that I don’t have to take grief from anyone if I don’t have to. At least not to the degree that I did when I was a kid or a student. Watching this movie gave me post-traumatic stress related to the control and oppression I received from the various authorities a child has to obey in this world.

One of those authorities is that of my parents. While there is certainly oppression in the form of discipline or reprimand, there is oppression in a child’s desire to impress or prove themselves to their parents. It is a form of oppression and control which in many ways comes from within the child, rather than from the parent. The protagonist here —  Andrew — attends the best music school in the country. He wants to make his father proud. He loves his father very much.

Another form oppression is an external one that comes from authority figures outside the family, like a teacher. In this film, this form of oppression is manifested by the amazing J.K. Simmons who plays Fletcher. Fletcher is an insane professor who heads the best jazz group in the school. He is quick to anger and physical violence, all in the name of pushing the students to their utmost limits musically. Fletcher creates the majority of the conflict and drama in this movie and Simmons’ performance is impressive. He doesn’t take on another persona, but I was truly afraid at times and had flashbacks of moments I felt fear from my teachers. Thankfully, I never feared to such an extreme degree as Andrew feared Fletcher.

Lastly, yet another form of oppression is the internal form which comes from a desire to prove oneself to oneself. Here, Andrew desires to be one of the greatest drummers in history. This is the core of Andrew’s identity and he is willing to sacrifice all — all his health and all his relationships — in order to achieve it.

The story is predictable at first, but somewhere halfway the progression becomes extreme and you learn just how far Andrew is willing to go to prove himself to his father, to Fletcher, and most of all himself. The amount of blood you expect to see in this movie is likely going to be substantially greater than what you think you’re going to see.

The ending was lovely and culminated in exactly the kind of climax I wanted to see. This is where indie films excel. All plot points need not be neatly tied together with a bow; it is the theme/statement and the expression of that primary theme/statement which is most important. Here, that message was the music and its performance. Jazz reigns supreme.

Noteworthy is Melissa Benoist. This is not because she has a very big role in this movie, rather it is because of how easy it is to fall in love with this girl. She is positive, charismatic and hard to resist in her roles be they on Glee or the upcoming Supergirl show. I look forward to seeing more of her in the future.

Score: 7.6 This movie was about drumming and it kept me on the edge of my seat. I loved the movie, but was stressed, exhausted, and satisfied by the end of it. The actors did a great job.

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