Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Indie Review: Whiplash (2014)
'Whiplash': A Film About How To Become An Artist That Encompasses Itself In The Form Of Blood-Stained Drumsticks
As an artist, one piece of information I always try to keep in the back of my mind is how trying to be a part of that profession can easily take a toll on my psyche. While thankfully, I haven't experience that sort of thing (yet), I can certainly see why that piece of advice would float around. Many artists have either suffered for their art or suffered trying to accomplish their art and Whiplash manages to weave in quite a bit of both. It shows the dangers of art by showing those that try to push us to the limits and the blood, sweat, and tears that come with trying to accomplish our art.
Whiplash follows the story of a student named Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) who attends the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory of Music and looks to be one of the great drumming greats. However, he is forced to undergo the extreme trainings of teacher Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) who does whatever it takes to push his students, even if it means causing his students to shed real blood, sweat, and tears.
One thing that I really liked about the film was the brilliant acting. Miles Teller, who you might've caught this year as Peter in Divergent and who will star as Mr. Fantastic in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot gives such an accomplished and layered performance. He really excels as a youngster who starts off emotionally neglected but slowly becomes more aggressive yet arrogant in order to achieve his simple goal while handling Fletcher's abuse. Next, I'll get into the extravagant brilliance of J.K. Simmons. Simmons also gives a very layered performance as the teacher who acts as a devilishly manipulating puppet master and with slight comedic relief. Yet, even when he acts like a monster, there are even scenes where we see that he is also simply a man. Plus, another aspect of Simmons' genius is that early on in the film, when Simmons would enter the classroom, the students would shiver in fear, giving the audience an idea of what they are in for.
Next, I'll get into the editing and the direction. What I loved about the editing was how it was just like "5,6,7,8", "click, click, click". In other words, it was quite snappy and fast paced yet quite sequential. For example, after Andrew starts handling abuse from Terence, the film immediately cuts to the following sequence where Andrew increasingly tries to figure out one of the songs they need to learn and as the sequence fastly continues, I was on the edge of my seat since Andrew gets more and more intense and I felt like I was taken to a darker and darker psychological place. The film doesn't get much lighter afterwards. So, the film's fast editing manages to showcase the psychological effects of pushing one's self, I would say. I also loved the direction by writer/director Damien Chazelle. It was interesting how Chazelle is able to literally showcase the blood, sweat, and tears that comes with being an artist and show how drumming can be more intense than it appears. Plenty of artists have some kind of drive to be some of the best, but with this film, we see what kind of psychological toll it takes on those types of artists. I would say my favorite direction-driven scene has to be the final 10 minutes. I won't give it away but I'll say that the film's climax shifts the film into a rather psychological battle of wits and everything about that sequence, much like the film, was astounding: The performances, the editing, the direction, and the sound.
Overall, Whiplash is a rather ferociously psychological demonstration of the blood, sweat, and tears that come with trying to be an artist. The performances by Teller and Simmons are both astounding, the editing is very snappy and keeps you engaged, and the direction by Damien Chazelle is certainly something to behold. Its sticks simply hit the right snares.