Review: Whiplash

March 15, 2015

The script for Whiplash doesn’t match the acting or the music

Review: Whiplash

Dir:  Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist

Winner of three Oscars - Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing - and also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture - Whiplash has two great things going for it: terrific performances and a wonderful soundtrack.

But it also has a script which increasingly stretches credulity till we reach a climax that is about as preposterous as it is rousing.

Whiplash tells the tale of Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller), a jazz drummer at a prestigious New York performing arts school (think Julliard), who dreams of becoming a great drummer like his hero (Buddy Rich). But Andrew is tormented by the school’s famous jazz ensemble instructor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a tyrant who believes terror is the best way to extract the most out of his students.

The battle of wills between the two is what forms the core of the movie and it is to Teller and Simmons’ credit that they keep us absorbed despite the unlikelihood of the scenario (I really doubt if a character like Fletcher would have been allowed to behave like he does for so long at a world-famous performing arts school).

Simmons has, of course, won every trophy in sight in the Supporting Actor category this past award season (and deservedly so) but Teller is no less effective (and he did most of his own drumming in the movie). Because of these two, the superb jazz score, and the tight, claustrophobic direction and editing,  I was willing to give Whiplash a lot of leeway. But the finale blew it for me.

Taken out of context the climax is a wonderful paean to music and musicianship but in context it is also implausible. Of course, there is a suspicion that it all plays out in Andrew’s head which would give the movie a completely different (and tragic) layer. Taken at face value, however, it is hard to swallow.

Cut to chase: Terrific performances. Terrific music. Implausible script.

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Review: Whiplash