Now that I've scrubbed off the stench that came with watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, let's review Whiplash! The film follows the story of Andrew (Miles Teller), a nineteen year old drummer with hopes to become one of the greats. After beginning to attend the finest music school in New York, Andrew gets chosen to move up into a higher class. This class is led by Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a music teacher who gets the best out of people through physical and mental abuse. Andrew puts himself through all the abuse in order to achieve the highest results, but how far is too far?
I have already seen over one hundred 2014 releases, most of which I have reviews up for and a few of which will be coming once #ScaryMovieMonthAtDCM finishes, and so I've obviously seen plenty of great films that were released this year. When I first saw The Rover at Sydney Film Festival I knew that I had just witnessed something great. As it turns out, I was one of the few people to five star the film. At the time it was my favourite film of the year. Almost two months ago I saw Boyhood. It killed me to say it, but I enjoyed it a heck of a lot more than I did The Rover. I really wanted The Rover to be the best film of the year, but when put next to Richard Linklater's twelve year in the making masterpiece it doesn't stand a chance. I've now seen Whiplash, and it's caused The Rover to once again move down a spot on my favourite films of the year list. Sorry.
Whiplash is astonishingly intense. In fact, this film just may be the most intense movie of the year. J.K. Simmons gives what I believe to be the best performance in his entire career. His character is mental, hurtling chairs towards his students so that they're encouraged to perform better, but he's never shown as an entirely evil person. The film takes a moment to stop and show his character as something more than a violent maniac who's hellbent on causing pain in people's lives. It turns out that he does actually have a heart, and this could not have been portrayed quite as well without the help of Simmons' extravagant performance.
Miles Teller never falls behind, giving what is also his greatest performance to date. For the few people who managed to go out and do themselves a favour by watching The Spectacular Now last year, I'm sure you'll be surprised to hear that that's now Miles Teller's second best performance yet. In Whiplash he gives it his all. It's a very demanding role. We watch him turn from a kind spirited young adult, going to the movies with his father and innocently asking one of the employees, Nicole (Melissa Benoist), out on a date, to an insulting and broken person who wants nothing else in life than to be a famous drummer. We're forced to watch as his character plays the drums unlike anyone I've ever seen, playing so hard that his blood gets spilt all over the drum kit. It's a challenging watch, but it's worth it by the time the film comes to a close.
First time director Damien Chazelle has given us just a taste of his talent. This may be Chazelle's first time in the director's chair, but it's not his first forte into screenwriting. He was the talent behind this year's Grand Piano as well as last year's The Last Exorcism Part II, which most would rather forget. I enjoyed Grand Piano a lot. It was very tense and exciting, but I won't discuss that just yet. I'll save it for my review next month. Little did I realise that Chazelle's next film, this, would be even more tense and exciting. This film is off the rails brilliant. It's a film that sticks with you after it's done. As I was sitting in my car on my way home, my heart was still racing and my palms still sweaty.
After a slow, but steady ten minutes, the film comes and sucker punches us with a satisfying, shocking and confronting ending. The film doesn't necessarily die down, but it certainly slows a bit towards the end, which was actually much needed. The film goes from constant excitement and shocks to an easy-going series of scenes, only to start the insanity right back up again with an ending that's filmed incredibly well and will leave you speechless.
To sum up, Whiplash is an astonishingly intense movie led by career best performances from both Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. The film is fast, exciting, shocking and directed immensely well. Plus it manages to slow down for just the right amount of time before picking back up again for an ending that'll leave you speechless.