Whiplash  (2014)    72/100

Rating :   72/100                                                                     107 Min        15

Another best film contender at this year’s Oscars, ‘Whiplash’ is the up-close and intense story of one music teacher’s bullying of his students in an effort to drive them to greatness. Determined potential drumming prodigy Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is numero uno on the list of students to break, and J.K.Simmons is abrasively and brutally brilliant as the demonic instructor hell bent on validating himself through ‘discovery’ of talent, whose determination is no doubt driven relentlessly on by his seeming failure to uncover any diamonds in the rough so far in his career, thus he feeds his own sadistic cruelty quite convinced the pain and suffering he causes is justified.

Teller is miles (ahaha) better in this than in anything I’ve seen him in so far (see ‘That Awkward Moment‘), and since it is him drumming (albeit with a lot of great editing from Tom Cross: the film’s solo, for example, took two days to film) he deserves a lot of credit, as does Nate Lang, who plays one of his competitors, for training him (Lang spent months tutoring him in the discipline of jazz drumming, differing considerably from his previous tenure drumming for both a church youth group and his band ‘The Mutes’ in high school). Teller, though, doesn’t yet have the emotional range to fully light up the film, to really, really make us feel for him.

It may perhaps seem a little too far fetched, that Simmon’s Terence Fletcher has been exaggerated beyond what would simply be allowed anywhere, but it’s partly based on writer/director Damien Chazelle’s own time in a jazz band (whose previous writing credits oddly include ‘The Last Exorcism Part II‘) and in The Red Dragon’s experience it’s bang on, and reminded him perfectly of one individual who was so despotic that he received bodily threats from concerned parents and yet who was still allowed to continue teaching unabated, resulting in a mass exodus of distressed and scarred students. No doubt many in the classical music industry will see similar shades of someone from their own past, or present …

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