Starring: Miles Teller, JK Simmons
Director: Damien Chazelle
A small film with a big impact, Whiplash is essentially a two hander between Miles Teller as a drummer who wants to succeed, and JK Simmons, who is a conductor who gives him a chance and pushes him to succeed. It sounds like a movie where an ingenue is taken under the wing and moulded into a star, right? But it’s more in the vein of films like Black Swan or the Red Shoes than 8 Mile or Rocky.
JK Simmons is the conductor from hell, and he’s fascinating to watch. At first he seems warm, perhaps even understanding, but he soon shows that he’s willing to push to get what he wants from his orchestra. In his mind, it’s clear that only perfection will do and that by weeding out weakness in his team, he’s getting them to give their best.
And yet… he pits them against each other, and tries to break individuals. And that’s what makes this film so great. While Tellers drummer is determined to succeed, working until his hands bleed, he can never really impress Simmons band leader. It’s like this guy loves destruction. To him, only those who are pushed and tested and who still continue are worthy, and yet, there is clearly something very wrong with this guy, with his methods and his abuse. Is he making something great out of his members? Or is he jealous and intent on destroying them? The push/pull between the two is really wonderful to watch, as they both spiral out of control in a dark dance of creation, music and destruction.
JK Simmons is seriously intimidating in this film, and his determination pitted against the quite storm that is Teller is so good. How far will they both go? It’s like a dark fairytale, where the good guy doing his best might not be able to succeed and there may be no happy endings. Maybe. No spoilers here.
See It If: a tense drama centering around music and two obsessives put head to head, if you like your drama a bit dark, this is a great film.