Director: Damien Chazelle Cast: J.K. Simmons, Miles Teller, Melissa Benoist
A drummer at a top music conservatory in New York is taken under the direction of a highly demanding tutor, who humiliates and terrifies his students when they don’t meet his high standards.
The plot synopsis of Whiplash doesn’t really sound like it offers mainstream appeal, as is so often the case with Oscar nominated films. However it won three Academy Awards in total (including Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons who I have loved ever since he was in underrated HBO series Oz), so I thought it was worth a watch. The plot isn’t thrilling and fast-paced by any means, but it progresses quickly enough to keep attention throughout- although perhaps at the expense of some characterisation, as we don’t really know a lot about the background of the protagonists, which may cause a lack of sympathy especially in the case of Andrew, the student.
Having said that, the performances are highly intense and as someone who’s not hugely into music, I was still absorbed into the world of a music conservatory despite not usually having an interest in that type of thing. Fletcher, the tutor, is absolutely terrifying and J.K. Simmons was excellent at making him one of the least likeable characters I think I’ve ever witnessed on screen. Towards the end of the film when Andrew is hurrying to get to the concert on time was extremely tense, and it culminates in an intense final scene (although his drum playing did go on a little too long).
Whiplash is unlikely to be enjoyed by everyone, but for those looking for something a little more art-house and less mainstream it’s ideal. I would say that it requires a little more commitment from the viewer to sit through it (it’s not a film one can watch passively as it’s so intense), so probably better for an intentional Saturday evening movie night.