If you’ve read any of my posts before then you know that the line after the title “in quotes” is the tagline from the movie. Some movies however, don’t have taglines so I am left to choose a quote from the film itself to fill in the space. I try to find the line most representative of the entire film just to give you a taste of what it is. Therefore, I need to point out that “Not my tempo.” is not how I felt about the movie, but a quote from J.K. Simmons’ character, Fletcher. Needless to say, I love this movie.
Being a band kid during my high school years I am no stranger to wrath-incurring band directors who want their students to play the best damn music anyone’s ever heard. Now my director didn’t go so far as to call us derogatory names or hurl cymbals at us, but she certainly made me feel that way at times. That is what this movie is about; the band directors willing to scare you, possibly even hurt you into becoming a player you never thought you could be.
Enter Andrew Niemann, played skillfully by Miles Teller. He’s attending a prestigious music college where he’s honing his skills in order to become “one of the greats” as a drummer. After being noticed by Fletcher, the band director from the top tier ensemble known for making his students cry, things get a little hairy. The whole film is a rollercoaster of emotions for both audience and characters, and I’ve got to say that it’s well worth the ride. Generally I don’t like when new actors are used continually and Miles Teller is one of those actors, but he really shines in “Whiplash”. Maybe it’s because it’s a lesser known film that it’s not as big a deal to me, or the fact that the part required a talented drummer which Miles actually is, but he just seems to really fit the role rather than being shoved in because he’s an “up and coming star”. And J.K. Simmons was the PERFECT choice for Fletcher, and I haven’t seen him in anything for a spell. It’s as if J. Jonah Jameson lost his job at the Daily Bugle and went completely insane, which is great because he’s nominated for Best Supporting Actor. I haven’t seen all of the Oscar nominees yet, but I can say without a doubt that he deserves this.
While watching the film I had this weird…call it an out-of-body experience. Andrew (Teller) walks into his first jazz rehearsal run by Fletcher, and it starts off as if he should’ve been there the entire time. He’s playing pretty well, Fletcher seems to like what he hears and even compliments him in front of the entire band. Andrew smiles. Then a chair is hurled at him and suddenly he realizes that he’s playing in the big leagues now. This scene reminded me of the first time I was on a film set. I barely knew what I was doing and nobody around wanted to help, they all just wanted to be away from me when I screwed up. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience before, one where you’ve almost been lulled into a false sense of security and then totally destroyed. I feel it’s somewhat rare that a film can totally implement an emotion that you connect to, but in that one scene I felt real fear. In case you haven’t had that moment, imagine a music director saying, “You want to clean the blood off my drum set?” If you think you could walk away from that phrase smiling, then you should probably google “S&M”.
Finishing this film left me with a few thoughts. Among them were the following:
1. I had never even heard of this movie until I saw the Oscar nominations. It wasn’t until I watched the trailer that I even garnered any interest, mainly because as I mentioned earlier I was getting tired of seeing Miles Teller everywhere. So don’t judge a film by its poster, you may be missing something great altogether.
2. I left high school vowing to never touch my saxophone again because of how my band director treated me. Instead of trying to improve on my sound by practicing more I decided to be stubborn and show her that I could fight back too. It’s only now that I think she may have been trying to push me, push us to be a much better band. Had I been more determined I may still be involved in music today, and have her to thank for it. But who knows, she may have just hated me.
DIRECTOR’S CUT: Excellent film that sadly will not win “Best Picture” (my prediction), because “art about art” rarely seems to captivate the audience it should. J.K. Simmons should absolutely win the supporting trophy though, even if he is scarier than any horror icon I’ve ever seen.
SCENE COLLECTED: Besides the one I mentioned above, the last scene of the film is truly amazing. I can’t describe it here for obvious reasons but just know that you really will want to fist pump the air once the credits start rolling.
FLICKCHART RATING: 247/2272