By Drake Vittitow
There are movies that put you on the edge of your seat and there are movies that keep you bolted to the edge of your seat for the entirety of the film.
“Whiplash” is the latter.
The film centers around Andrew, a Shaffer Music Conservatory student, played by Miles Teller, and Fletcher, his teacher, played by J.K. Simmons.
Shaffer is the top music conservatory in the United States, so naturally it is cut-throat, and Fletcher will stop at nothing until each student has reached his/her full potential.
Simmons is the sole reason why I stayed on the edge of my seat for the entire film. His presence demands attention. The way he interacts with his students – his expectations and teaching tactics ride the line between humane and inhumane. Over half of his lines are him either correcting a student or telling them how much they suck. It is degrading. It is ferocious. It is what makes this movie.
But this is not just a movie about a mean teacher saying mean things to a prodigal drummer just because he is mean. No, this movie is not only about the chase of perfection, but it is also about convincing others around you that what you are chasing is worth the investment.
In the movie, Andrew’s family does not see his vision of becoming the best. They think that his journey is useless because it is not a traditional way to make a living for yourself. They encourage him to get a “real” job and start providing for himself instead of chasing a silly dream that has a good chance of not amounting to anything.
I am sure at one time or another, we have all had someone tell us that what we were doing was either a waste of time or not the right thing to do.
Andrew’s dad is on the fence about the entire situation. He knows how much his son wants to be the best, but he does not understand why he would want to pursue a life in music. He passively supports him, but anytime a roadblock comes up during Andrew’s stint at Shaffer, he tries to convince him that he was meant to do something else in life.
The tension-riddled relationship between Andrew and Fletcher is the fuel that fires his determination to prove everyone wrong. The chemistry that Simmons and Teller share is magnetic. It is a picture-perfect depiction of someone who is chasing perfection and a teacher who knows no boundaries when it comes to pushing his students to the limit.
Something that might go unnoticed in this film are the technical aspects. The final 20 minutes of this movie is a cinematographer’s wet dream. With the film only being given 19 days to shoot, the tight editing and immaculate shots are nothing short of a miracle. It will leave you contemplating how they were able to pull the entire movie in two-and-a-half weeks.
‘Whiplash’ is a film that has it all. A refreshing atmosphere, gripping characters and a relatable message are all present. It is the kind of flick that will linger in the back of your mind long after the end credits have rolled. This movie is one of the best movies of the 2010s and it encapsulates why you do not need a big budget to make a great movie. Much like its titular character, this movie chased perfection, and it caught it.
Drake Vittitow wrote this review from his home in Blanchard, Oklahoma.