Friday, January 30, 2015

Whiplash - Movie Review

Whiplash is an intense drama written and directed by Damien Chazelle who originally couldn't get the movie made so he turned it into a short film, entered it at Sundance, and received the funding necessary to bring his original dream to life. The resulting feature film includes the acting talents of J.K. Simmons, Miles Teller, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, and Austin Stowell

A young drummer named Andrew (Teller) has aspirations of becoming a legendary musician and is doing everything he can to achieve that goal. While attending a prestigious music school, he catches the attention of Dr. Fletcher, an elite music instructor of one of the most renowned student bands in the country. Andrew quickly learns that competing for a spot at this level is no easy task and, while he has worked as hard as he thought he could just to get in the door, he must now push himself that much farther if he wants to stay in the game. Complicating things even further is an instructor whose extremely intense methods often cross the line when it comes to what is seen as appropriate in polite circles although he truly believes that true genius comes out of aggression and fear.

At first glance, this movie looks like it could be a slowly paced drama with a bit of emotional punch, but what Chazelle has created is one of the most intense movie going experiences I have seen in some time. The interaction between student and teacher is brought to life so vividly by a director who seems to have a crystal clear vision of exactly how he wants every shot to look and feel which gives Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons the perfect opportunity to really shine. Simmons plays the character so huge that you can almost feel the room explode when he goes on one of his rants yet he is also able to draw you into the most intimate moments with just a glance or flick of his hand.

Teller is the perfect balance to Simmons' larger than life performance as he brings a quiet, smoldering focus to the role with just the right touches of an artist's mentality. He is completely believable in moments where he must remove people from his life in an emotionless manner to scenes where he is being torn down both physically and emotionally during practice sessions with his teacher. I've been so used to seeing this young actor in comedies and teen romance movies, I wasn't aware he had this type of performance in him. It's really nice to see a young actor open himself up to a role that is as challenging as something like this. I would imagine there were some true parallels between what he went through as an actor and what his character goes through as a musician and he will definitely end up being that much better for having gone through the experience.

Whiplash is one of those movies that will leave you so exhausted that you will need to sit through the credits all the way to the end just to catch your breath. I loved every moment of seeing this movie in the theater as you could feel the intensity from every person in the room and there was just a buzz of excitement you don't often get to experience. The whole thing plays out like the kind of well crafted song that just ebbs and flows flawlessly while building up to an explosive crescendo. If you enjoy really great film making and Oscar caliber performances, you should see this movie as soon as you possibly can.


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