We proceeded to watch it late on a Tuesday night, knowing we wouldn't be up early and that the film was a tight 90 minute running time.
Whiplash tells the combative relationship between a young drum student, Andrew (Miles Teller) and his volatile teacher Fletcher (Oscar winner J. K. Simmons). Unlike other mentor and pupil films, the mentor and pupil meet from the outset, and the pupils aim to please he mentor is at the forefront throughout, even at the behest of the pupils writer father played by Paul Reiser.
Simmons' portrayal of Fletcher as this abrupt and bullying figure is the voice of the film, the way he bewitches his students into motivation for performance is paramount. Yet for all the grandiose of Simmons' role, a lot has to be said for Teller's role as Andrew.
Teller has a strange face, one that looks older than the age he is meant to be playing. Yet it looks like a face that has lived, one that can be calm and reflective in one scene, yet highly expressive and emotive in another such as when he gets passed up by another drummer; his impassioned face says it all. The strain he puts on himself to learn the pieces going to physical extremes is painful to watch.
You get the impression that Fletcher will never be pleased with any performance by his band, and the constant referrals to Charlie Parker and the legend of Bird is a little bit telegraphed somewhat by Damien Chazelle's screenplay. Yet in this day and age of seen it all before film, it is nice to see a film that is positive about the human spirit and capability it can achieve, and an alteration on a familiar movie sub-genre.
The ending has been much discussed as to what it means for both characters, is Fletcher pleased or not? For this reviewer it showed that anyone can wave their hand up there and conduct, it takes special musicians to play like Andrew does in the finale. In that sense, Andrew is reminiscent of Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes, sacrificing body and soul for the glory.