Movies: Whiplash

I went into this one knowing nothing except J.K. Simmons took home the Academy Award for it. Now I know why. Though I guess the Academy thinks Miles Teller needs to pay a few more dues, but honestly, he did a fabulous job as well.

Teller plays Andrew, a driven, first-year music student at supposedly the finest conservatory in the nation (which means, of course, it's in New York). Andrew is a drummer, and he's picked out by Fletcher (Simmons) to join the Studio Band, which is the elite performance group for the school. Fletcher's teaching methods are extreme to say the least; he is, as some would call it, a "pusher" in the sense that no matter how good a student is, it's never good enough. To keep Andrew on his toes, Fletcher brings in another drummer so that Andrew is ever under threat of being replaced, ever required to prove himself and earn his spot on stage. Andrew drops his girlfriend and focuses solely on becoming "one of the greats."

Fletcher pushes Andrew so far that at one point Andrew stumbles away from a car accident with only the thought of getting to the performance on time. He tries to play while half covered in blood, and when Fletcher orders him off stage, Andrew attacks him.

Turns out that Andrew isn't the first of Fletcher's students to come unraveled; a prior student had recently committed suicide, and the parents blame Fletcher. So Andrew "testifies" (for lack of a better word), supposedly anonymously, against Fletcher and his tactics. Andrew has already been expelled after attacking Fletcher physically, so he has little left to lose.

But then Fletcher invites Andrew to play at a local jazz festival . . .

I'll leave the rest to your imagination, or for you to go and watch for yourself.

It's a simple film but marvelously done. Brutal in places, and raw, which is the point. I only wish some of these talented filmmakers would come make 20 August. I think they could lend some real beauty to it.

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