Whiplash: Yes I Would Like to Watch the Rest of the Film Please!
I don’t like jazz! BUT I repeated this film a couple of times. This was not because I did not understand something, but because I couldn’t get enough of it. It is not just the music that got me for the first time, it is the whole composition, the writing, the acting, the directing, the cinematography, and everything works together in perfect harmony.
The writing of the film keeps you captivated from beginning to end. 2:42 Minutes into the movie with opening credits included, we already know what Andrew Nieman’s goal is to get into Fletcher’s band. He heard that he was looking for players and he went for it. In this very short time, we learn the kind of a person Fletcher is and the dialogue is concise, impeccable and filled with lots of subtext. (See the opening scene pictures attached)
Now this is some opening! It starts with the inciting incident. Andrew gets a mini audition for Fletcher and ‘unimpressed’ he shut the door on him. What is he going to do? In this very small space of time, we already know that Fletcher is an abusive conductor, he just called him a monkey, and this kind of language and insult is what he carries out throughout the film. By reading the first two pages of the film and by watching the first 2 minutes of the film, you already know your decision to continue with the film or not. Now in screenwriting, you are often told that the first 10 pages will make the reader to continue reading or not. Whiplash makes that decision very easy in just TWO! The characters are both very strong. The goal is established. The conflict is clear.
In this review I would like to focus exclusively on the characters and the writing. The film looks at two completely different and conflicting characters with the same goal- BEING THE BEST IN THE MUSIC SCENE. Their ideas of the phenomena are however, completely different. Fletcher is the leading conductor at Shaffer Conservatory where his band comprises of only the best. He is rude, emotionally and psychologically abusive, self-absorbed, and punctual. He is an extremely organized man who seemingly cares only about winning. He is willing to step on everyone’s toes to attain his goal.
The film makes use of very subtle subtexts to reveal his character. When Fletcher invites the 19 year old Andrew to his band practice for the first time he tells him that it starts at 6am and that he shouldn’t be late. Andrew wakes up at 6:03 and he does not even consider brushing his teeth. He runs like a maniac to the studio only to find that the practice starts at 9am. When the clock hits exactly 9am, Fletcher enters the studio, not a second later. This idea of time, in a form of tempo drives the whole film. Fletcher has a sharp ear and he can hear if a particular individual is out of tune or is not playing to the right tempo. And tempo/time is what carries the conflict. Andrew has to fight to be in Fletcher’s tempo if he wants to remain the core drummer in the band or otherwise he will be paging the music score for another drummer forever.
Andrew on the other hand, goes to Shaffer with his main goal being to be part of Fletcher’s leading band in the city and most probably in the world. He is a talented drummer, who is naive, competitive and willing to do anything to win Fletcher’s approval of him.
Both Andrew and Fletcher are strong characters from beginning to end.
Often times in screenwriting, you are told that characters need to undergo transformation in the film; that they should have changed by the end of the film. However, in Fletcher’s case, he gets you fooled for a moment where you sincerely believe that being fired from the studio has made him a better person when he meets Andrew for the first time since their last fight which ended up with Andrew being kicked out of Shaffer. Here, Fletcher invites Andrew to come play with him at his next performance where the key people in the industry will be present. This seemingly is Fletcher looking for a fresh start and giving Andrew another chance. At this point, Andrew had put music behind him and had put away everything music in his life. But again, a big part of him needs Fletcher’s approval that he is the best drummer. By the end of the film, you find out that Fletcher did not change at all. The film ends with him being the same schemer, who is self-absorbed, and conniving as he was in the beginning.
Andrew has become more mature by the end of the film. How he handles Fletcher’s blow is completely different. By the end he has learned to fight and prove that Fletcher is not the person who has his future in his hand. For the first time, he is in control and there is nothing Fletcher can do about it but follow Andrew’s lead. Earlier in the film when Fletcher screwed him up, Andrew resolved the conflict but by the end, he learns to let music fight for him. He goes head to head with Fletcher and would not let him take the opportunity to be the best drummer in the world from him again.
In conclusion, Whiplash is one of the well-crafted films in the industry. It has strong characters with powerful dialogue lines. The conflict is great from beginning to end. It is captivating, it is moving emotionally, it is great writing overall.
I WOULD RECOMMEND IT TO ANYONE WHO HASN’T SEEN IT!!!