As a part time actor, I understand how competitive the world of creative arts is. The biggest and most fulfilling goal is to find something we love doing and being able to make money doing so. Some have a passion for the office life, but plenty others would rather do something creative. Who wouldn’t like to make a living by singing and dancing? The problem here is that there are more untalented then there are prepared. It’s not just that they come to make it, but it’s that they stay without an epiphany that would send them home. The new goal is to show why you’re better then the bunch.
So that’s when we turn to education to not only improve our abilities, but hope that some connection or showcase might give us something once we’ve finished. There’s no guarantee, but the ones that work hard are likely find something to do. But to make it to the end, we have to prove to our teachers that were capable of handling the workload and pressure. The biggest question we face is why we need to prove our peers? There teaching because there not performing, so are they even the right people to prove? I guess it depends on the teacher, but the question gets bigger when we consider Whiplash.
Andrew Neiman (played by Miles Teller) is an aspiring jazz drummer who is in his freshman year at the Shaffer Conservatory, the best music program in the country. He strives to be one of the greats and hopes to catch the attention of the schools infamous conductor, Terrence Fletcher (played by J. K. Simmons). Neiman knows of Fletchers reputation as a tough educator, but still aspires to be noticed as he continues to practice and juggle a new girlfriend.
A surprise in-class audition finally gets Neiman a spot on Fletchers orchestra. At first, Fletchers seems calm and encouraging to the young man, telling him that everything will be fine. But once Fletchers anger is revealed and a chair is flung, Neiman breaks down in the middle of class, never having dealt with someone as intense as this conductor is. At this point, he knows that he has to impress him mentor, so he makes the decision to break off his relationship and all social life to focus on drumming. He gains bloody knuckles and blisters on his fingers, but Neiman strives to show that he has the potential to be the next great drummer.
Whiplash is intense. Nope, that’s not even the right word here. Whiplash goes beyond horror film intense. The lengths that our characters will go to play jazz is just surprising. This film breaks down upon the principle that practice makes perfect. Practicing helps, but does that create a genius? It seems to hint that it’s all a croak and that were are either great at something or not. I can see the angle here as I’m aware of several people that read monologue daily, hoping that they’ll be better actors. That helps improve their skill, but they can’t be born gifted. They simply are better at it or not.
This film works well because of our leads, Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons. Teller must of gone through a crazy preparation for Whiplash as they clearly show him playing these up to ten minute drum solos that would have made my own hands fall off. Perhaps the actor himself should be a real drummer. Simmons on the other hand, is the kind of teacher that no one ever wants. Sure he’s passionate for creating the next great players, but you really question how far he’ll go to get that out of his students. The relationship between these two is something that’s never been done to this extreme between student and teacher.
I’ll give this five bloody drumsticks out of five. As I said with Nightcrawler (the same company behind that also produced Whiplash), sanity is all over the place and that just makes for a better movie. It’s all very fascinating and something that everyone who wants to go into the creative arts (especially music) should see.