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He Said, She Said Review Site
Whiplash

Whiplash

What She said:

She

The He seemed a little unsure with this pick. He’s not really into those teacher/student music movies ala Mr. Holland’s Opus, but Whiplash had such good reviews that I twisted his arm on this one. He survived, I can assure you, but I honestly still don’t know what he thought of the film. A former musician myself, I didn’t quite have the same level of trepidation that The He had, although this movie is not one of those family friendly flicks that warms the heart. Whiplash is larger than life, gritty, and not all peaches and cream. It’s not what you’d expect, but it’s also deeply affecting.

The film tells the story of Andrew Neyman, a dedicated young jazz drummer who would like to be the next great thing in the field. He is clawing his way to the top, and gets his big break when Terence Fletcher, leader of the prestigious studio band at the Shaffer Conservatory in New York, asks Andrew to step in as the alternate to his core drummer. Andrew seems to have his in; however, as he quickly learns, Terence changes his mind at a whim, and so it’s easy to be shuffled to the top and then dropped completely from the group. One minute Andrew is in, the next he’s a nobody.

Andrew thinks that with hard work and devotion to the craft, he will please Terence and earn himself top billing. He pours himself into practicing. He dumps his potential love interest before their relationship really ever has a shot of getting off the ground, explaining that if he wants to be elite, he needs eat, sleep, and breath jazz drumming, and a girlfriend doesn’t fit into that equation. Andrew has already lived a solitary life void of friendship, even alienating himself from his own family for the sake of drumming.

Whiplash

And then there’s the physical toll. Andrew practices and practices to the point that he’s bloodied and dehydrated. He makes himself ill from playing. And yet it’s never quite enough for Terence, who continues to berate Andrew and his bandmates with insults and criticisms, making them feel like dirt. The only time that Terence doesn’t seem like a heartless psycho is when he finds out that one of his ex-students and top performers has died in a car accident. For just a moment, he actually shows emotion.

The film climaxes with a big competition, and Andrew doing everything within his power to overcome the odds and perform. It all blows up in his face, and he’s left broken. I won’t give anything away, but the outcome of that competition changes everyone’s lives.

For once, I’ve decided to withhold some of the plot for the sake of leaving a little mystery for you. That’s really the payoff at the end of this film. Otherwise, it’s like watching an hour and a half of abuse. It’s very emotional. None of the characters are particularly likeable, except maybe Andrew’s father, but they’re all effective in making you think a little. I was torn between whether I was rooting for Andrew or nobody at all. The kid may not be the most pleasant guy, but he’s also extremely dedicated to his craft and that is certainly laudable in its own right.

Whiplash

There are moments in this film that feel like they drag on a little, but overall, I’d say that it’s pretty well written and tells a good story. It’s not a particularly complicated one, but it’s also one that’s important to tell, particularly nowadays with the level of bullying that kids face from their peers and from those in authority roles. I’ve never known a teacher as extreme as Terence Fletcher, but I have known some that were not afraid to cut down their own students and be somewhat verbally abusive. I’ve also heard some horror stories, particularly as you get into those elite levels of music and dance schools. It’s all about ego.

What’s really great about Whiplash are the acting performances. J. K. Simmons is borderline terrifying as Terence Fletcher. He’s totally unhinged, and I completely believe him. I kept wondering if he was going to give himself a heart attack, stroke, or aneurysm as he screamed and threw things at his students. Miles Teller plays Andrew Neiman, and I have to say that this is his best performance to date. I think he’s been a little hot and cold in the past, but he’s solid in this role. The character really challenged him to create someone that the viewer can sympathize with but also recognize as not wholly likable.

Overall, I really liked this film. It made me angry and emotional, and in that way I think it was very effective. I challenge others to give it a shot.

Thumbs up.  

Whiplash

What He said:

He

I liked Mr. Holland’s Opus for the record. At least I did the last time I saw it, which was years ago.
The reason I was not high on this movie was two-fold. I am not a jazz fan. I’m not the biggest music fan to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I listen to music almost every day – and I probably will the rest of my life – but I’m not into music. If I hear something and like it, I listen to it. I don’t get caught up in the nuances of certain genres (and definitely not jazz) or follow certain artists or genres with any real dedication. I literally just listen to what I like. I don’t know why, I’ve always been that way, but I’m just not into much more outside the songs I enjoy listening to.

Whiplash

I also did not want to watch a movie that everything works out in the end after this guy treats his students like shit for nearly the entire time. Being an ass hole is not ok to me even if your students succeed. I didn’t want to hear a message like, “Oh, sure he’s extremely mean and unprofessional, but it’s all ok in the end when his students succeed!” I don’t want to hear that shit.

So, to be completely honest, I was not looking forward to this movie at all.

Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is a first-year student at the extremely prestigious music school, the Shaffer Conservatory (it’s not a real place in case you are wondering), in New York City. He is an aspiring jazz drummer and has spent his entire life working hard so that he can get into Shaffer, which turns aspiring musicians into working (and successful) ones. Andrew wants to be the next Buddy Rich.

A big reason for the school’s reputation and success is because of teacher – and asshole extraordinaire – Terrence Fletcher. When I say that Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is an ass hole, I am not exaggerating in the slightest. Fletcher doesn’t push his students, he berates them. Constantly. Remember when I said that Andrew wants to be the next Buddy Rich? Well Fletcher wants to discover the next Buddy Rich.

One day while roaming the halls of Shaffer, Fletcher hears Andrew practicing. He mocks him and pretends he is not interested, but eventually invites him to be a member of his band at Shaffer, which is huge for a freshman.
Andrew initially starts out as the backup drummer, but quickly replaces the lead, and then is replaced himself just as quickly. You start to wonder if Fletcher is really that pick or if he’s actually messing with Andrew. Is Fletcher ridiculous fickle or is he actually that much of an ass hole?

When he is demoted, Andrew is obsessed with regaining the top spot. He isolates himself from…everyone actually. He has no friends, he dumps his girlfriend, and he even distances himself from his father, who is pretty much the only person who likes him.

Whiplash

The whole thing eventually comes to a head. It’s very tense and dramatic and nothing like what I expected. This movie is not the least bit boring. It sounds boring based on the description, but it is surprisingly tense for a movie that takes place – in large part – in a classroom.

It’s pretty much a two-man show too. There are as many people in this movie as in any other movie, but most of the movie involves the relationship between Andrew and Fletcher, even when there is a room full of people with them. This movie is a lot like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s  in that sense, as well as several others. Both movies are about two characters who are at odds with each other and none of them are particularly likeable. Some might like Andrew, because he’s the protagonist, but I did not. He was arguably as bad as Fletcher. These two feed off each other like Batman and The Joker, except neither one of them is Batman. Some might find Andrew’s determination inspiring. I did not. He wasn’t determined, he was obsessed.

This movie would not have been possible without the absolute powerhouse performances by both these men. I have no words for how utterly detestable, unlikeable, and sometimes frightening Fletcher is. J.K. Simmonds was simply awesome in the role. The movie might have been about Andrew, but Simmonds really stole the show and that’s not because Teller wasn’t good. He was, Simmonds was just great. I’ve seen Miles Teller in The Spectacular Now, but was not overly impressed. I didn’t think he was bad, I just found the movie to be a little too unbelievable at times. He was very good in this movie though.
I liked this movie quite a bit, which I did not expect, and that’s a good feeling. You don’t want to waste your time and money on something you don’t like. Nobody goes into a movie wanting to dislike it; unless you’re a masochist. You think you might dislike it, but never want to. So, when you come out of an experience feeling better than you expect, that’s always good. This movie made me angry, but that was a good thing in this case. This movie is simple, but complex. It’s about two really messed up people pitted against one another and the tension between them borders on a psychological thriller. I wouldn’t call it a thriller, it’s not about life and death stuff, but it borders on it. It is surprisingly tense.

Paul Reiser is also solid and Andrew's father. He is pretty much the only person in this movie you like, because he's normal and doesn't understand why his son pushes himself to the limits he does.

Prognosis: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on March 28, 2015.