Movie Review: Whiplash is a thrillingly jazzy movie


Whiplash is about the relationship between Andrew Neiman, a student jazz drummer striving for greatness, and Terence  Fletcher, his hostile jazz teacher. This may sound like a bland plot, but the execution of the pacing makes it phenomenally addicting to watch. The film creates tension at just the right moments and makes the script feel realistic.

Whiplash (2014) was written and directed by Damien Chazelle, and features Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman and J.K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher. This film won several Oscars after its debut, including Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing, and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Writing Adapted Screenplay. J.K. Simmons won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor due to his role in the film. The movie had a budget of 3.3 million USD, and earned 49 million USD in the Box Office.

Andrew is an alternate drummer in the Shaffer Conservatory of Music- the best jazz group in the state. However, he feels as though he isn’t good enough, and yearns for perfection as he tries to become the main drummer of the band. The movie has many uncomfortable and intense scenes, where Andrew overworks himself as his sweat and blood spill over the drum set.

The movie opens with a black screen and a drum roll. I think the progressing of the speed of the drum roll is a very unique decision, as it foreshadows Andrew’s development and increasing obsession for perfection. As he descends into his obsession, Fletcher abuses him by verbally harassing him, shaming him in public, and throwing a chair at him during practice. This angers Andrew, and he works even harder to prove to Fletcher that he can be the best. Unbeknownst to viewers, Fletcher acts aggressively to help his students improve, even though his actions create great tension between characters.

The dialogue of the play was very natural and flowing. However, the movie consists of countless swear words (most being said by Fletcher) which gives the movie its R rating. These profanities make sense in context, when Fletcher is verbally harassing Andrew during practice, but be aware of the language when choosing to watch the film.

The most dynamic aspect of the movie was the character development. Color is commonly displayed to show character development, with innocence being represented by white, and seriousness and computerization being represented by black. Andrew starts off as a shy, friendly college kid, reflected in his white shirt in the beginning of the film. When the tension between Fletcher and Andrew grow, Andrew begins to be more assertive, defending himself and his pride.

The further you go into the film, the more unemotional and serious Andrew becomes. When Fletcher hires a new drummer, Andrew starts practicing to the point that his hand bleeds. The turning point of the story comes when he punches his drum out of frustration. A shot of Andrew putting his hand into a cup of ice helps express the message, his blood tainting the ice a deep red.

Later on, he starts wearing darker clothes, like Fletcher, which represents his increasingly robotic behavior. By the end of the film, he is shown wearing all black, just like how we see Fletcher in the beginning of the film. Wearing all black, we don’t know if he has gone crazy, or is really passionate about his goals.

The last shot of the film is the climax of the film. Andrew is in one final performance with Fletcher. Due to a series of events, Fletcher gives Andrew the wrong music onstage, and Andrew is publicly shamed as he plays horribly and leaves the stage embarrassed. But due to Fletcher’s teachings and a series of developments, he goes back on stage and plays a phenomenal solo, for the sake of himself rather than the band. Fletcher is supposedly infuriated, but starts to go along with him. He cues in the band and they perform one more song. The last shot of the film ends with Fletcher and Andrew smiling at each other, but each for their own reasons. Andrew showed Fletcher that he had what it takes to be the best, and Fletcher showed Andrew that his rough teaching methods worked. The goals of both characters create a wonderfully thrilling film, and make this one of my favorite movies.