Film Review: ‘Whiplash’ Finds a Big Rhythm, Gives it a Backbeat

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

CHICAGO – When is the last time you had a bit of sweat after coming out of a movie? “Whiplash” will do that, and it contains not one action sequence or superhero, unless you consider J.K. Simmons as a sociopathic music guru a hero (he is in a way), and drumming as action (it is). Oscarman rating: 5.0/5.0
Rating: 5.0/5.0

“Whiplash” is wham-bam-thank-you-Sam, a spectacular melding of passionate musicians and the mentors that get them there – think “Paper Chase” meets The Julliard School. The face off between a once-in-a-lifetime jazz drumming prodigy and the teacher who is hoping to mold his excellence succeeds not because of what is expected out of such a story, but what happens psychologically around it. It is a test of wills, and a testament to the ability of a human being to recognize their special talent and take it all the way to the top. Who gets him there and how becomes a combination of outright sadism by the instructor and what the drummer can learn about himself. This is a freaking great movie and piece of fiery jazz music entertainment.

Andrew (Miles Teller) is a throwback, an intense drummer who takes his cues from the legendary jazzman Buddy Rich, rather than anybody in his era. He gets into one of the most prestigious music schools in the country, and while practicing some licks he gets noticed by the top jazz instructor at the school, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). He asks Andrew to join the jazz band there, one of the top student groups in the nation.

This begins a vicious indoctrination, as Fletcher uses physical and psychological games to break Andrew and bring him to another side of excellence. The exacting standards are known only to Fletcher, and the cat-and-mouse destruction and rebuilding worries Andrew’s Dad Jim (Paul Reiser) and a potential romantic connection named Nicole (Melissa Benoist). Will this jazz drummer become THE jazz drummer?

“Whiplash” continues its limited release in Chicago on October 17th. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benioist and Paul Reiser. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle. Rated “R”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Whiplash”

Miles Teller
Andrew (Miles Teller) Brings the Jazz in ‘Whiplash’
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Whiplash”

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