Whiplash arrives in Australian cinemas with advance word on the performances of the two leading men, and the critics announcing the young director Damien Chazelle as one to watch. It is a film not to be missed.
It is New York City and young drum protege Andrew (Miles Teller), suddenly gravitates to the head class of the legendary band leader/teacher Fletcher (J K Simmons) at the renowned Shaffer Conservatory of music. Andrew will do anything to get better, practice, listen to Buddy Rich CD’s, sacrifice relationships, be friendless, and suffer the indignity of the constant abuse from his mentor/teacher Fletcher. His father a high school teacher (Paul Reiser), deserted by his wife, has raised the boy himself, aware of his sons ambitions and aware of life’s disappointments, advises him, “You have plenty of options still.” The two regularly share popcorn at the movie-house that still plays cinema classics like Riffifi, which itself featured a great Jazz score. Pizza and a girl Nicole (Melissa Benoist) promise a relationship, however the drums and practice always take priority. As he graduates to Fletcher’s class, Andrew undergoes a tortuous series of auditions, that recall Full Metal Jacket, where Gunnery Sgt Hartman humiliates Pvte Leonard ‘Gomer Pyle’ Lawrence repeatedly to turn him into a killing machine. That ended badly for all involved. In this class Fletcher bullies his student cohort relentlessly, silence, heads down and play well or else, “that is not your boyfriends dick do not come early,” or “is that the fastest you can play you worthless Hymie fuck.” Chazelle directs these rehearsal sessions as if he’s directing a thriller, slowly building up the tension to breaking point and then releasing. The film is edited by Tom Cross who is himself graduating to a league of his own, as his work here demonstrates.
Simmons after years supporting less gifted leading men seizes the opportunity to let rip with an hypnotic, charismatic demonstration of his skill. When he walks into a room removes his hat and coat, flexes his biceps, you literally sit back in your seat, waiting for the psychological torment to begin. Teller who came to prominence in last year The Spectacular Now, proves he is a young actor on the rise. Norman is not a particularly likeable character at times, however Teller’s characterisation evokes sympathy.
From the opening titles with shots of New York, and the great Jazz score from Justin Hurwitz, Chazelle’s film takes hold. One of the many pleasures in watching it, is never knowing how it will end. The climax is a stunner.