As the film awards season heats up, I spend more and more of my time in a darkened theater educating myself on the potential nominees and the new film, Whiplash, was the first in a long line of films on my list. I can honestly say I really didn’t know what to expect from this movie, it didn’t have major, recognizable names leading the cast, this was the first film for director Damien Chazelle, and it did not have a major advertising campaign preceding its release. Needless to say, I love the feeling of sitting in a dark theater and having absolutely no idea what is about to unfold before me, which is nearly impossible in today’s world of 24 hour media.
Intense does not seem like a strong enough word to describe Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. Every aspect of the film leaves the audience panting to catch up. It is a roller coaster of emotion and passion that exhausted me as much as a half hour on the treadmill. Miles Teller and JK Simmons give two of the most realistic and honest performances in recent memory. Teller brings such vulnerability to his character that you can feel him pulling on his passion for his own craft. Simmons is ruthlessly brilliant as Terrence Fletcher, the brutally honest and driven music professor to Teller’s Andrew Neiman, a music student at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory. Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist make convincing appearances as Neiman’s father and girlfriend, respectively.
Whiplash is a stunning portrayal of an artist’s passion for their work and the fire that drives them to perfection. The film is also a stinging analysis of emotional abuse and its effects on the human spirit, especially on the young men that Fletcher strives to inspire. I hope to see the film in the running for a slew of awards in the coming months, not the least of which should be honored are Teller and Simmons’ performances.