Sunday, March 15, 2015




Andrew Neyman is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite east coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher, an instructor equally known for his teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the school. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man's life. Andrew's passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability-and his sanity. ©Sony Classics

From IMDB:

Ratings: 8.6/10 from 164,345 users Metascore: 88/100

TOMATOMETER 95% | Average Rating: 8.6/10
Reviews Counted: 241 | Fresh: 229 | Rotten: 12

Critics Consensus: Intense, inspiring, and well-acted, Whiplash is a brilliant sophomore effort from director Damien Chazelle and a riveting vehicle for stars J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller.

AUDIENCE SCORE 95% liked it
Average Rating: 4.5/5 | User Ratings: 50,742


Right off the bat you see this so you know it isn't about baseball. ©Sony Classics

So there's this drummer that wants to be one of the greatest and a jazz conductor who's method of teaching would make the Soup Nazi proud...

So this movie came out late last year and in the most recent Oscars bagged quite a number of accolades. I had not really heard of this film and of course I'm not really one to be really swayed by an Oscar nod to have to go and see it. But hearing lots of good things about it did make me curious. Especially since it is about music and of course I heard it had good music in it. And luckily enough for me it had just opened in our local cinemas. Yeah, I know it's a little late but round here the blockbusters get shown first the small independent and really good movies usually get very limited distribution and really short play periods. Sometimes it doesn't even show up. So yeah, really, really lucky that this one was being shown in cinemas so that I can properly support it while I enjoy it. 

And enjoy it I did. It makes sense why it's gotten the ratings it's gotten on IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. And why it's gotten those Oscar nods and won awards. It's really good. 

J.K. Simmons does a lot of cursing and yelling in this movie. ©Sony Classics

What's it about? Well, if you haven't heard about it and are guessing what it's about based on the title then more than likely you'd be wrong. When I first heard the title I didn't associate it at all with music. My first thought was of that 1996 film by David Cronenberg called Crash. And that film is as different from this movie as Paul Reiser's success is when compared to Jerry Seinfeld. Maybe. What do I know about Paul Reiser's success, right? By the way I like Paul Reiser. Loved his sitcom, Mad About You (1992–1999). I'm just really bad at that comparing thing.

The story in Whiplash is a pretty simple one. It's been done before, probably a million times by now. It's the story of a young man who wants to be someone great at his chosen field but who's talent for it is never noticed by anyone. Then one day while practicing his passion someone notices, and as is usual that someone turns out to be someone who can help him, guide him, mentor him. Of course the person that mentors him has an unusual approach, as in this case the approach is to verbally abuse him, mentally and psychologically torture him and sometimes even hurl things at him or make him do something to the point of utter exhaustion. Unique teaching skills? Yeah, got that right. I'm thinking even the military doesn't do this to new recruits unless they're going for special squads or something. You know commando training or something like that. 

And he gets right up to your face to do it too. ©Sony Classics

But this is a movie about music, right? Well, yeah, it is. It takes place in a music college a prestigious one called the Shaffer Conservatory in New York. Our young undiscovered talent is a first year jazz student named Andrew Neiman and he plays the drums. His goal is to be as good as his idol Buddy Rich. He's a loner and basically has problems looking people in the eye, also his self confidence isn't the best either. At the Shaffer Conservatory is man named Terence Fletcher the schools jazz instructor famed for being a hard ass and a very precise and detailed teacher. Nothing gets past him. 

So there you have it, a student who is struggling to show everyone around him that he is good at what he does and a mentor who's teaching style is more suited to life and death military training in the a hot and humid jungle that it is in an art school. What makes it even worse for the young musician is the fact that not only does he not have friends to support him but his own family is far from impressed with his choice for a future career. 

Yeah there is supposed to be a love story between these two but it doesn't happen. ©Sony Classics

So as the movie goes on you see Andrew being yelled at, insulted, berated even physically abused every time the two are in a room together. And when he's alone all he ever does is listen to music and then practice till his fingers bleed. Towards the end Fletcher is fired from his position at Shaffer Conservatory after one of his past students committed suicide and puts part of the blame on Fletcher for causing him emotional distress and depression. But that's not the only reason he was fired apparently several other students have claimed the same. Andrew after an incident where he was involved in an accident trying to meet Fletcher's deadline is asked to participate in the complaint. 

At the end though, after the two part ways after Fletcher's departure from Shaffer Conservatory and Andrew being dismissed from Shaffer after attacking Fletcher at a jazz competition they meet at a bar where Andrew notices Fletcher is playing. There they talk and Fletcher explain why he does things the way he does. His reasons makes sense to Andrew and before they go to each others home Fletcher offers Andrew a spot in his band when the play for an upcoming jazz festival. 

It came to a point that there were three drummers. ©Sony Classics

At the festival though Fletcher puts Andrew on the spot by setting the band up to play a song that Andrew doesn't have the song sheet to. Fletcher has set him up to fail because he believes it was Andrew that got him fired from Shaffer. Andrew walks off stage after being embarrassed but then returns and begins to play to Fletcher's surprise and anger. He goes so far as to cue the rest of the band without Fletcher's permission. At the end of it all, Andrew impresses Fletcher and Fletcher finally gives Andrew a wordless sign of approval. 

The end.

It's nice to see Paul Reiser again. ©Sony Classics

So a movie about a student, a teacher and jazz? Can it be that good?

In a word, yes. It's very, very good. If you've been a regular reader of my blog and my reviews you'll know that I usually recount the movie as best as I can up there. Basically I spoil for you. But this time I don't. It's not that I'm lazy. Well not entirely. But I don't think my writing about everything that goes in there would do it justice. I'd just tell it like it is and it would probably end up sounding like a real dull movie. After all I'm not that good a writer. You know this for a fact. 

Whiplash is one of those movies where on paper and when reading the synopsis you really can't tell how good it is. This is a movie you have to go and watch it for yourself to appreciate. You just have to take the words of those that like it for how good it is. And for those that don't like it well they have their reasons too so put them both on a scale and then decide. But if you only ask me then I'd say go watch it. 

Ever get so mad at playing the drums, which is basically hitting things with a stick, that you wanted to punch it? He did. ©Sony Classics

Why? Well, the performance given by the two main leads are just incredible. Just that, incredible. I don't know how else to say it. Miles Teller who plays Andrew Neiman was just so good. And J.K. Simmons who plays Terence Fletcher is just so ridiculously vicious and tyrannical that you just want to hate him but you can't. You're just in awe of his performance as the perfectionist who will accept no less that you appreciate why he does the way he does things even if they border on cruelty. 

Yeah, he's so mad right now that he's thinking of tackling him. ©Sony Classics

And then there's the music. The music that you hear throughout the movie whether in the background scoring each scene or when Andrew is practicing or when there's a band playing on screen is really good. 

Visually it's also brilliant. The editing and pacing of this film is very nicely done. And the shots are done beautifully, showcasing the actors performance both when delivering their lines and when playing as musicians. 

But all is well when you're on stage in front of an audience, right? ©Sony Classics

This is for all intents and purposes an almost perfect film for me. But be warned though, this is not a movie about jazz, about music, about mentoring or the teacher-student relationship. The music is just the vehicle. It's about two individuals each with their own goals and how their paths have intersected. Andrew Neiman is looking to be the best drummer in the world and he's pushed to that goal by Fletcher. Fletcher believes that what he does and how he does it will help him find that next great musician even if it pushes that person to the very edge of sanity. Neiman at the very end proves to Fletcher that he can be more that what Fletcher believes him to be. Fletcher is pleasantly surprised that Neiman has proven him wrong despite his suspicions of him being the cause of his early dismissal at Shaffer. Where they go from there will probably not be the best of situations if they stick together but we'll never find that out. 

Since I've mentioned above that this is an almost perfect film you can probably already guess that I'm giving this movie a 4.4 out of 5. Seriously if you're a fan of a good story, good acting, good music and good camera and editing work, go watch this movie. 


  1. Anonymous2:56 am

    Biat betul ko ni golumpus, filem ni memang filem yang dinanti nantikan kot. Last year lagi dah digembar gembur kan bagus. Tambah pulak J.K Simmons tu almost every award events menang best supporting actoe kot.. Agak agak la kan..

    1. betul laa. memang best apa movie ni. sebab tu aku bagi 4.4 dari 5 bintang :) nak bagi 5 bintang terlalu perfect pulak kan hahaha.

  2. Anonymous4:42 am

    Ko rasakan, part ending tu ko puas tak?
    Epic tak? Bagus kan ending macam tu.. Apsal la pembikin filem
    Malaysia tak buat filem macam ni kan..

    1. Ending tu aku puas hati. Filem Malaysia tak payah layan la takde yang gempak. Bukan tak sokong filem Malaysia tapi kalau dah cerita macam tu takkan la kita nak buang duit kan?hehhehehe.