When I first considered viewing the phenomena that is the 5-time Oscar nominated ‘Whiplash’ it was with a small amount of trepidation believing that this was a Rudy character study of overcoming tremendous odds in the world of contemporary Jazz. I was, however, revitalized during the film to learn how wrong my assumptions were, this film was about overcoming odds, but on a much grander scale… at least that’s what the film would have you believe. And it did, the film was successful in it’s endeavor to make me believe that the goal of prestigious Jazz instructor (J.K. Simmons) to find and mentor a legend on par with Charlie Parker and the methods he employs to achieve this goal.
All the performances given in this move were on point with the depth and complexity that was certainly on the page. Miles Teller is always engaging and keeps the audience on the side of his character Andrew which at times is a difficult gambit with his single minded focus and drive. Personally I find him representative of a younger set of interesting actors who are more Dustin Hoffman than Brad Pitt, not that he is necessarily an everyman, but you aren’t likely to see him on a Calvin Klein billboard anytime soon. J.K. Simmons is more or less playing the same character as Teller, just from a different point of life, career, and potential; his Oscar nomination is well deserved and if you’re familiar with his work dating back to Oz through parts on several Coen Brothers films and of course in the Spiderman franchise, this won’t be a total shock. Watch also for Paul Reiser, who makes hay with the small amount of screen time he does have, especially the understated performance his gives in the closing scene.
The real surprise of this move for me is how much I enjoyed the music; not being a particular fan of Jazz I found the selections engaging and also exceptionally listenable as this is a real music movie considering the fact that we are mostly following one character and his obsessive practicing of the same pieces. On that note it’s important to notice how claustrophobic the cinematography is and how effective it is in conveying the personal nature of the film but also demonstrating the cramped spaces that I’m certain the best musicians in New York must suffer considering the premium on real estate that they endure.
In closing ‘Whiplash’ has my highest recommendation, it set out to demonstrate how and what costs are involved with developing a legend, but doesn’t overstep it’s bounds and become fantastical. Balanced and nuanced, great music and performances, in the age where the zeitgeist seems to be screaming for an original story that doesn’t rely on special effects to wow an audience this is one that needs your support to ensure more of its ilk have an opportunity to see the celluloid of day.