Oscars 2015 Contender Film Review: "Whiplash"
Sure Fire Oscar Sweeper Musical Drama Is A Must See!
Damien Chazelle's follow-up to his debut feature "Grand Piano," finds him firing on all cylinders as both a writer and a director. "Whiplash" is many times unsettling, absorbing and singularly meaningful the way that most films hardly scratch the surface to achieve. From casting to execution, the writer-director has constructed a meticulous piece of go-for-broke storytelling that leaves the viewer in gee-whiz awe.
Those viewers familiar with J.K. Simmons's work on "Law & Order," the indie-darling "Juno" and as the megalomaniac General Eiling in the DCAU's fondly remembered "Justice League" animated series will find him channeling a bit of both parts with an emphasis on the impassioned and psychotic personality of the latter character. This is a man who risks losing everything for the sake of greatness and throughout the film you realize just how important not just jazz music is to him but to his stature and legacy long after he stops teaching/conducting. Miles Teller, fresh off of last year's hit indie "The Spectacular Now" explodes on the screen the minute we meet him. Like Simmons's character Fletcher, he, too, desires perfection in his craft as a jazz drummer but in a completely different way. Watching both actors' interplay is half the fun and the other half is the smooth editing, prolific jazz score and inspiring cinematography.
The film largely takes place in music rehearsal spaces and Chazelle's camera is almost always in constant closeup. When Fletcher is brow-beating and even slinging symbols and drumsticks at Neyman's head to motivate him to reach superhuman levels of ability, we see the sweat dripping off of both actors and, in Teller's case, the bloodshed and bruises as if he'd been in one too many fist fights. It is in these moments that we witness both character's necessity to ascend and a co-dependency to realize each others untapped potential. Love him or hate him, Fletcher is a veteran maestro with OCD and by now has formed his own way of breaking his students' spirits if need be.
As despicable as Fletcher's methods are, you can't help but root for him even when he seems like he is disparaging everyone in sight. To him, a barrage of insults (and there are many throughout) acts as a motivator to not only Teller's character but to everyone. At the film's climax Fletcher and Andrew have a heart-to-heart in a bar as Fletcher exclaims in all his years of teaching that he's never found his "Bird" referring to Charlie Parker. Andrew takes this to heart the rest of the way and his spirit shines higher than any point in the film that not even a brush with death can stop his ascent. Do yourself a favor and see this film. For all those who are dreamers and believers, this one is for you. RECOMMENDED!!!!