The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Whiplash | JK Simmons, Miles Teller, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser | Review

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5sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is EXCELLENT Judy Thorburn

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5lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is EXCELLENT



Whiplash raises the issue of what is considered going over the line and how far is too far when it comes to seeking perfection.

Writer/director Damien Chazelle's gripping, intense drama features two of the year's most outstanding, if not the best, performances from its two leads, Miles Teller and JK Simmons that go head to head in a battle of wills and determination.

The biggest revelation is Simmons, a veteran character actor, known for his extensive film work including his portrayal as Juno's father and for TV viewers in the Farmer's Insurance commercial. In Whiplash, he flexes his acting muscles like never before and will blow audiences away with his outstanding work in this film. Trust me, you will never think of him the same way again.

The story revolves around 19 year old Andrew Neyman (Teller, The Spectacular Now) a first year student at New York's Shaffer Conservatory of Music, considered one the best music schools in the country and Terrance Fletcher (Simmons) the school's music teacher/band instructor whose conduct with his students is nothing short of deplorable.

Andrew wants to be the greatest drummer in the world, maybe even topping his deceased idol, the legendary Buddy Rich. Drumming is all he thinks about day and night. He lives, breathes, dreams, drumming with only an occasional break away from practice to go to the movies with his dad (Paul Reiser) or trying to start a relationship with the pretty movie concession girl Nicole (Melissa Benoist, TV's Glee). The potential romance comes to a halt when Andrew eventually feels that he has bigger things to pursue and that she would only be a distraction.

Andrew is driven by his passion and obsession and refuses to let anything get in his way. A loner with high aspirations, Andrew doesn't have any interest in sports like his brothers nor does he want to follow in the path of his father, a failed writer. There is a powerful scene in the film at a family dinner where Andrew clashes with both his father and his siblings and sets them straight.

How Fletcher, the feared band instructor fits into Andrew's plan is another thing. Fletcher is a monster who thinks nothing of tormenting his students with humiliating, personal, below the belt, verbal attacks laced with foul language that inflict emotional distress in order to reach his standard of excellence.

The competition is fierce as Andrew strives for the core drummer's seat in Fletcher's studio band while having to withstand the never ending spew of abuse his teacher pounds on him.
Under the persistent pressure to be perfect, it is fitting to say that Andrew marches to the beat of a different drummer, and Fletcher is his brutal drill sergeant pushing him to edge of insanity. I understand the statement, no pain, no gain, but you would think in everything there must be limits or boundaries set. Fletcher believes he has to push people beyond what is expected of them and it is a necessity, regardless of the possible consequences. To what ends Andrew will go to meet his teacher's approval and acceptance is the core of this gripping, heart pounding film that is filled with more tension than most action thrillers. If getting the right tempo means working those drum sticks so hard as to make his hands bleed, so be it. Talk about blood, sweat and tears, as 'be the best you can be' is taken to the extreme.

Teller and Simmons deliver unforgettable, electrifying Oscar worthy performances in which they totally invest themselves into their characters that have one thing in common, stopping at nothing to pursue their dreams. For Fletcher it is to find another musical genius like Charlie Parker and for Andrew, it is to achieve greatness.

Everything about this film is top notch from the performances to the directing, the writing, cinematography, editing, sound design, music and pacing that draws you in and never hits a wrong chord.

Whiplash is the title of a piece of music played by the film's characters. And just as the word is defined in the dictionary as the lashing of a whip, the force of impact, as in a jerk or jolt to the head or neck, this riveting film elicits a powerful impact that is equally hard hitting from the beginning and leading up to and including the spectacular, very satisfying climax.


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