Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Whiplash - review

Back at school, we all had that one teacher that took a particular shine to us (not in that way) and encouraged us to be better and achieve our goals, and in Whiplash a promising young drummer finds that person in the form of music professor Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons.

But be warned, this is no Dead Poets Society. There is no "Carpe Diem" or "Oh Captain my captain" to be found here.

Simmons is a shoe in for an Oscar nomination as the tyrannical teacher who terrorises his students both physically, emotionally and verbally in order to force them to fulfill their potential and elevate his band. He spits out insults at a rapid tempo that are simultaneously obscene yet have a rhythmic musicality that build towards a combustible crescendo and he emerges as the most eloquent executioner of profanity since Peter Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker.

This film is what would have happened if R. Lee Emrey's drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket had pursued a career in music instead of the armed forces.

Miles Teller (who performed all of his own drumming) is equally impressive as the ambitious student who is put through the proverbial wringer and following in the footsteps of other films which deal with performance and obsession (Birdman, The Wrestler, Black Swan), it is not certain whether or not there will be a happy outcome for Andrew.

At times it might seem like a horror or psychological thriller but at its heart, Whiplash is a love story... it's just that Andrew is confused as to what is his true love.

Is it Nicole, the cute girl at his local cinema? Is it the drums? Or in a case of a quote from Birdman, "you confuse love with admiration", is it actually Fletcher?

There is enough homoerotic insults and symbolism (or should that be "cymbalism") being thrown around to argue this point. Fletcher certainly seems to take a sado-masochistic pleasure in watching Andrew violently beating his four skins.

Damien Chazelle has written and directed an incredible film that simply crackles and fizzes with energy and passion, and this is nowhere more apparent than in the finale where the editing is exemplary as Andrew and Fletcher prepare for a final showdown.

So don't drag your heels. Rush out and catch this film that is destined to win BAFTAs, Oscars and all that jazz.

5 stars

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