Whiplash - rated - HOT! HOT!
Baptism of fire
This is the story of a drummer and his struggles to become the best. I
found it utterly compelling. I should disclose the fact that I am
a drummer too, still learning, practising and trying to become better.
So I lived every moment of this film (and drummed most of it as well!).
But the wider story of this film is the question of excellence, of
genius. What does it take to become a top artist? What does it matter
whether they are a nice person, or have friends, family and the
semblance of a "normal" life? But what happens if they fail? What if
there is nothing left? Is this the risk you must take?
And what is the role of a teacher? Should they "be cruel to be
kind"? Or is that just being cruel? Is it better to be brilliant or to
Particularly these days, with generations X & Y having been told
they are brilliant, talented and can do anything: are they tough
enought to make it? Should they be? And what is "making it"
All these arguments are made and countered in Whiplash. It's a critique of
excellence in a package of a touching "coming of age story" and with a
marvellous score to boot. Not only do we have the delight of
listening to some great jazz and big band music, but we also get to see
a terrific performance by young Miles Teller (he's 24), who has played
drums since he was 15 or 16. He's quite touching, and yet believeable
as a young relentless kid. He took drum lessons 4 hours a
day, 3 days a week to "brush up" his drumming style (as did Sal Mineo
in The Gene Krupa Story
(1959)! Mineo studied for a year with gene Krupa himself). This all
sounds like heaven to me!
Then there's JK Simmons, who plays the teacher/ bandleader. I think
I've seen a lot of him on TV (Law and
Order, for example). I believe the part was written for him by
writer/ director Damian Chazelle. According to IMDB, part of the film
is based on director/writer Damien Chazelle's experience as a band
student in high school. In a Q&A after a screening, Chazelle stated
he was intimidated by his band instructor's presence. Chazelle is a
bright new talent, on the evidence of Whiplash.
So, in summary, this is a film of ideas, well-executed and
intelligently-written, with excellent performances and wonderful music.
But best of all is the climax. It involves a drum performace that
is absolutely electrifying! I was ecstatic and in tears at the
same time. A star is born? But it's a baptism of fire,
that's for sure.