Sunday, January 18, 2015
Whiplash (2014 film)
Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, Whiplash is the story of a young jazz drummer who goes to one of the best music schools in the U.S. as he is being taught by one of the school’s most demanding and fearsome teachers. The film is an exploration into ambition as well as what it takes for someone to wanting to be the best as a young man copes with the demands of his teacher. Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, Jayson Blair, and Paul Reiser. Whiplash is a tremendously powerful and chilling film from Damien Chazelle.
What happens when a young student at a music school gets the attention of a renowned teacher who pushes him to the edge? That is what the film is about as it is an exploration into a young man’s ambition to be the best jazz drummer out there. In encountering this jazz orchestra conductor who demands the best out of his students and nothing more, Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) hopes to impress this man in the hopes that he can be like Buddy Rich. Yet, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) thinks Andrew might have what it takes as he pushes him emotionally and mentally to the breaking point. Even as he would put in drummers less talented than him to get into Andrew’s head as it would affect his personal life as well as other things.
Damien Chazelle’s screenplay showcases the ugliness of ambition where Andrew aspires to be great but it can do things that can destroy someone. Inspired by a story Fletcher tells everyone about Charlie Parker, Andrew hopes to impress Fletcher as he keeps practicing and practicing where it would take a toll on his hands where he would get blisters on his fingers. Yet, Fletcher’s demands and constant verbal abuse would get to Andrew as he would nearly lose control as it plays into the ugliness of ambition. Fletcher is an interesting character as he is someone that is looking for the next Charlie Parker or the next Buddy Rich. Even if it means destroying them and to see if they can get back up from that sense of humiliation which is his sick, twisted game of the mind.
Chazelle’s direction is very stylish as he creates a film that may look simple in terms of its compositions but it has this sense of energy that does play like a jazz record. It starts off slow but then it goes fast and slow again while maintaining a sense of rhythm that is unpredictable as it plays into the emotional context of the film. Chazelle’s usage of close-ups and extreme close-ups play into the emotion as it displays Andrew’s determination to be the best as there’s blood on the drum kit or in the look of Andrew’s face. The usage of medium and wide shots also play into the sense of energy as well as some of the looming tension that emerges where Chazelle would frame the actors to play into something that could explode. Especially as the sense of drama comes to ahead in the third act as it relates to Andrew coming to terms with everything he’s enduring as well as him questioning into if he really had what it takes to be a great jazz drummer. Overall, Chazelle creates a very captivating and haunting film about a young drummer’s ambition to be the best and the dangers of ambition.
Cinematographer Sharone Meir does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography with its stylish use of lights for the performances on stage as well as in some of the interiors as it helps set a mood into the sense of darkness that Andrew is embarking on. Editor Tom Cross does incredible work with the editing to create some unique cuts that is very stylish that plays like a jazz record that features some of the intensity into Andrew‘s drumming and that sense of determination into living up to Fletcher‘s demands. Production designer Melanie Jones, with set decorator Karuna Karmarkar and art director Hunter Brown, does excellent work with the set pieces from the look of the studio that Fletcher conducts his class to the dorm that Andrew lived in.
Costume designer Lisa Norcia does nice work with the costumes from the clothes that Andrew wears which is casual while the clothes that Fletcher is all black with the exception of one scene. Visual effects supervisors Jamison Scott Gel and Grant Miller do terrific work in a notable sequence that plays into Andrew‘s obsession into trying to prove himself to Fletcher. Sound editors Craig Mann and Ben Wilkins is amazing as it plays to the intensity into how the drums sound as well as the way music is heard in other rooms as it‘s one of the film‘s highlights. The film’s music by Justin Hurwitz is fantastic for some of jazz-based score that plays into the film while music supervisor Andy Ross brings in a lot of frenetic jazz pieces from the likes of Tim Simonec, Stan Getz, Duke Ellington, Buddy Rich, Dana Williams, Nicholas Britell, and Hank Levy.
The casting by Terri Taylor is superb as it features some notable small roles from Chris Mulkey and Suanne Spoke as Andrew’s uncle and aunt, Jayson Blair as the core drummer that Andrew would replace from Fletcher’s class, and Austin Stowell as a classmate of Andrew who would try to replace him. Paul Reiser is excellent as Andrew’s father who is concerned with his son’s well-being as what is son is embarking on. Melissa Benisot is wonderful as Nicole who would date Andrew briefly early in the film as she copes with the demands he’s putting on himself to impress Fletcher. J.K. Simmons is phenomenal as Terence Fletcher as a jazz orchestra conductor who is an absolute tyrant that demands greatness in his players as he has this intimidating presence that is very scary at times. Finally, there’s Miles Teller in a remarkable performance as Andrew Neiman as this young man that aspires to be one of the great jazz drummers as he nearly breaks down in every level as Teller displays a humility and determination to become the best as it’s a very haunting performance.
Whiplash is an astonishing powerful and exhilarating film from Damien Chazelle. Featuring top-tier performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, it’s a film that explores a young man’s drive to be great as well as the mental and emotional it would take to do so in the hands of taskmaster who will do anything to see if he has what it takes. In the end, Whiplash is a sensational film from Damien Chazelle.
Damien Chazelle Films: (Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench) - La La Land
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