Reel Talk with Annie: “Whiplash”

Annie Schwartz

Staff Writer

Never did I think that a movie about a jazz musician could be more terrifying than any horror film in the books. Indeed, “Whiplash” will make your skin crawl quicker than any slasher flick on the big screen. A student at a Julliard equivalent, Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is an aspiring drummer, determined to become the next Buddy Rich, one of the greatest drummers of all time. Only one thing stands in his way: Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), conductor of the first-tier band. Fletcher, who might as well be referred to as He Who Shall Not Be Named, is far more than your typical hard-ass. He will chew you up and spit you out faster than Neyman can play his best-double time swing, and is not afraid to do so. Veins pulsing, Fletcher throws insults (and chairs) at a countless number of students for forgetting sheet music, being out of tune, and of course, “not quite,” on his, “tempo.” With an open seat available in the band, Neyman auditions and is unsurprisingly offered the spot. Unfortunately his luck stops there. Before long, Neyman is dealt his share of Fletcher’s harsh blows, landing him in a pool of his own sweat, tears, and blood. Yes, you heard correctly. Fletcher’s tactics are clearly extreme in producing the best musicians in the country. In this cutthroat world in which students are literally driven to insanity, director Damien Chazelle incorporates rhythm and tempo to convey the sense of anxiety that overtakes Neyman and the other students. Close-ups on wood-tipped sticks slapping the skin of the snare mirror your heart palpitations caused by Fletcher’s bloodcurdling screams. Blood, like splatter paint, decorates the symbols, the camera tilting up to reveal Neyman’s festering blisters. The combination of sharp cuts aligned with the beat of fast-tempo jazz makes “Whiplash” even more enthralling. While I love “Whiplash” because I am a drummer myself, music education is not necessary to become captivated by Chazelle’s depiction of the competitive world of music. With its stellar photography, strong script (included in the 2012 Black List), and powerhouse acting, it is no surprise that “Whiplash “ has received great acclaim. Nominated for the Queer Palm Award at the 67th Cannes Film Festival and winner of the Dramatic Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, “Whiplash” has received a total of five wins and three nominations. This film is worth an $11 movie ticket. It will not leave you disappointed. Receiving four stars on rogerebert.com, I have to say Whiplash is a must-see film of the season.


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