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5 Reasons Not to Say Good Job to Whiplash

We liked Whiplash, we really did. The character of Terence Fletcher was fascinating, an incredible performance from J.K. Simmons, but an enthralling character does not make for a five star film. Here are five elements about Whiplash that didn’t quite make it feel like a finished composition.

Warning: There are some major spoilers here. If you have not seen the film, (and we recommend that you do), come back and read this piece afterwards. We can wait.

 

1. Female Problems

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Who knew that Jazz was such a male pursuit? There are exactly two women in the film seen playing music (and surprisingly not actress Melissa Benoist, who is a singer and musician). One woman is derided by Fletcher as being in the band because she is cute, (so funny that a woman could be beautiful and talented at the same time). The other woman is seen in the Jazz band put together by Fletcher at the end. But yet, in the core of the film, in Studio band, there is not one woman at all. And yet Fletcher, in a scene perhaps meant to humanize him, is extremely polite to a little girl, and asks her to play in the band when she grows up. And yet, she would have to make do in a band consisting entirely of guys. No place for women in his attempt to be best?


2. I’m Not With the Band

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And what is worse, we never get to know any of the other members of studio band other than Neyman, except for the other drummers, Connelly and Tanner, who seem to exist solely as competition, (we certainly do not get to know them at all, except as antagonists). It would be interesting to hear how many members of the mainly nameless Studio band felt about Fletcher. Certainly, none of them come to newbie Neyman’s defense for fear of reprisal, though how come not one of them tries to stick up for ‘Elmer Fudd’ when he is being unfairly singled out?


3. A History of Violence

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Perhaps one of the most troubling aspects of the film is its treatment of Sean Casey. The first time that Fletcher mentions him to the Studio band, it is to stress that he perished in a car accident. He seems to be really broken up by it as well. And yet, it is later revealed that Fletcher somehow drove Sean Casey to kill himself, even though Casey had become quite successful as a Jazz musician. It is surprising to hear that Fletcher has been so consistently demonic that he has driven a former student to suicide, and yet, in his reign of terror, not one other student has ever thought to report him. “I knew that it was you”.


4. A Crashing Halt

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It is meant to be inspiring, the lengths that Neyman will go to secure his place in the band. Director Damian Chazalle favours showing off the blood, sweat and tears that Neyman leaves behind in his pursuit of becoming one of the greats. So why does he need to crawl from the wreckage of a car crash to show the extremes he is willing to go to impress Terence Fletcher? Throughout Whiplash, Neyman acts as a willing adversary, proving himself to do what it takes to succeed. It would have been interesting to see Fletcher encourage or in some way inspire Neyman, or to see him fail on his own merit, rather than resorting to a car crash.


5. Fletcher’s Major Malfunction

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The one question that we have not been able to answer is: What does Fletcher want? His actions towards the end of the movie certainly seem to be going to extremes to humiliate and destroy Neyman. To what end? Why does Fletcher go to the trouble of training an entire band of players only to set up and attempt to ruin the drummer? The audience will hear Neyman ruin the song Upswinging, because he was not given the music, (was there no rehearsal?) Then when Neyman returns to the band and does incredible work on Caravan, (though not a “good job”), Fletcher is transfixed by his extended drum solo, locking eyes with his student in a kind of ‘aha’ moment, like that was his plan to bring out the best in him, (remember, he had set him up for failure not a few minutes before!) So did his plan work?

It is left to the viewer as to whether Fletcher has actually helped Neyman become one of the greats. It seems like Neyman, (Miles Teller), has done a “good job” on his own.

  • Anthony

    These are some interesting points, but ultimately everything you want would make this an entirely different movie. If we learned more about the band, it would be a different movie. If it were about women, it would be a different movie. If there was no car crash, it would be a different movie. If I wrote about restaurants, I’d be a food critic.

  • Matt

    We can find faults in any film. From Citizen Kane to Vertigo, nothing is perfect. Whiplash is a pretty awesome little film. Why can’t we just love it?

  • Adriana Floridia

    While I agree with everything you said, except for maybe the questionability of Fletcher’s intentions, I didn’t really notice any of these things while watching the movie. The car accident scene is the only stand out, but the scene is melodramatic to prove a point, and I think it’s kind of fun and absurd. Just like the rest of the film.
    As for Fletcher, he’s a complex and interesting character who is so intriguing because of the unknowability of his intention. I bounced back and forth from siding to him to despising him, and while his methods were unethical, I agree with his sentiment about pushing artists to the brink. I think the Sean Casey thing is a bit muddled too, because if he’s already successful then it seemed he was proof of Fletcher’s teaching method, but the topic of anxiety/depression is too sensitive and grey to really delve into. I would think that Fletcher’s method would result in more triumph than the film leads on, and I think that even despite his evil turns, in the end that’s what Fletcher is looking for and when Neyman rewards this craving at the end, it’s understandable that Fletcher would turn around from trying to make him fail- Fletcher and Neyman succeed in the end. I also disagree that it’s unbelievable that other students wouldn’t stick up for Elmer Fudd or any of the band mates. When a teacher instills that much fear in his students, most people would just keep quiet and deal with it.

  • Erik Martin

    It seems like you didn’t really understand this movie. I’ll answer #5 because it’s easiest to do quickly. Fletcher ruined Upswing because he is an irredeemable sociopath, and because he considered it a small price to pay to make sure that the guy who got him fired would never be able to make it big as a drummer… despite the fact that his bullying had already discouraged him from pursuing it.

    • Nicolás Zin Bernárdez

      It seems like YOU didn’t understand the film. Fletcher is convinced that to get the best out of people you have to push them to the edge. And only the greats come through after that. He ruined upswinging to see if Andrew would come out of that and boy did he in the final number

  • Aaron Lathrop

    1 and 2 are calls to make the movie about something else entirely. I am legend and cast away focused on one person but you wouldn’t criticize them for not featuring enough women or enough other characters.

    3, 4, and 5 are all related. Perhaps the car wreak was too far. I think the whole point of the film is summed up in the final two conversations in the film. The teacher arguing that we don’t push people far enough and the student arguing that perhaps you can push too hard. The final show brings up the question, was Fletcher right or wrong? He got the kid kicked out of music school so he crushed someone that was talented but the kid also wouldn’t quit even when he had nothing left.

  • hm

    Hmmm. Unless you were positioning this post as being a series of wishful thinking points (which would make for an entirely different movie, mind you), you really don’t understand the film at all.

  • muñoz Cinthia

    I’ve recently seen the film and I was dissapointed by it. For a film centered around music and musicians there seems to be little joy in playimg it. Andrew doesn’t show anything special about him as a musician other than the desperately need to become important and remembered. It seems his only drive is not music but escape from a common life because he sees himself better and above the rest but even this is not fully fleshed out in the plot.This is shown in the scene where he ditches his girlfriend. I also think there’s no redeeming quality about his character, Why should I care he’s not even an antihero in the film. Besides it seems that for all reasons and purposes being a great drummer (according toFletcher) is going fast.Fletcher is almost a charicature a nemesis for the purpose of advancing the plot reminded me the training part in Full Metal Jacket, which would be okay if the film intended to use the character as an archetypical rival but there was this thin line between parody and serious drama. It seems to be a film about 2 strugling forces I get that, but it could ‘ve been set in a law school, Tv like swimming with sharks (which was a black humour comedy and worked just fine) but in the end it didn’t live up to the hype. Neither main character seems to change from the beginning to the end Andrew keeps yearning greatness and Fletcher still remains a nutjob bend on revenge

    • HHH

      It shows the competitive side of music, most “great” musicians are very competitive. It also does show instances of andrew enjoying the music for what it is, as in the scene where he turns up to practice and misses turning the page. Also, Fletcher holds above all importance the ability to play the music at the proper “tempo”, if a drummer can’t go fast enough, he simply can’t play certain pieces at the required pace.

  • Yo

    Opinions are like assholes.

  • Caleb Karebu Chadouikku

    Haters gonna hate or they’ll place hate because why not.

  • Noah Ward

    The whole point was to focus on the drummers first of all. The other players would have taken away from the main plot

    The end of the music was great because he was wanting to push Neiman to the very limit and earlier he mentioned that the next Charlie Parker wouldn’t get discouraged no matter what. Fletcher was just proving his point that no matter what Neiman would not get discouraged.

    And the car accident as great scene because it was showing that Neiman had a drive like no other. The reason he never told Fletcher was because he didn’t want to make excuses.

    Fletcher explains his moment about pushing people beyond their limits.

    You are trying to turn this into a different movie that wouldn’t have won so many awards.

    And it’s Andrew Neiman, not Newman.

  • Vranak

    What an outstanding misreading of this film. This an article nobody wanted to read, written on the flimsiest of pretexts, that wants to turn a challenging film requiring the audience to think into a moralistic, PC-friendly, feel-good turd of a film.

    • Ben

      …as opposed to an immoral, nihilistic, feel-bad turd of a film? Those are a dime a dozen these days. Stop reading Cormac McCarthy for a while and at least TRY to go outside.

      • Vranak

        Uh, what?

      • Ashley Nicole Lemire

        I’d hardly call this nihilistic or immoral or turd-y. Being as it’s critically acclaimed. Honestly if you had any in-depth knowledge into the creative process you’d understand that pandering to an artist doesn’t improve on skill. It’s relentless practice to the point of insanity that brings out the greatness of creativity. We draw, play, paint, sing, sculpt and dance like angels or demons because in that narcotic moment of creation we are above emotion, above the banality of being human. I’ve stood in front of an easel and cried and ripped the paper to shreds and felt like a failure and wondered why I took my asshole professors borderline abusive shit and doubted my reason for even being in art school. And then I stood there for hours on my aching feet with my cripplingly painful hands forced line after line after contour line and made the top of my class.

        Everyone is under the impression that this kid was subjected to unwanted abuse but he stuck it out. Like we all do. Because we know that in the end we’re mastering our craft, we let people like Terrance Fletcher deflate our egos so they can be built from a place of humility. They burn us down so we can build us up. That’s what being an artist is.

        Nihilism? Please. I LIVE for my art. When it breathes I breathe and that’s what this movie shows us. The hard grit of true artistry.

  • Christian Gori

    It’s spelled with an i not a y. Neiman, not Neyman.

  • uba dubaman

    fletcher wanted a charlie parker of his own answering the false assumption to the question that the article says: “The one question that we have not been able to answer is.What does Fletcher want? ” During the jazz scene in the bar-like place, Fletcher says to Andrew “I never really had a Charlie Parker. But I tried. I actually fucking tried. And that’s more than most people ever do.” Although he states this, his ex-student Sean Casey or Andrew Neiman comes closest to Parker.

  • Ashley Nicole Lemire

    Our obsession with creating safe spaces brings out mediocrity not greatness.

  • Owen Saunders

    I think the confusion about Fletcher’s intentions with the whole Upswinging piece is easily answerable — it’s supposed to be ambiguous. It could be seen as a win-win situation for Fletcher, who, on top of being totally crazy, is also obsessed with creating his own ‘Charlie Parker’ (“at least I actually f*cking tried”). If Andrew quit after screwing up Upswinging, Fletcher would have successfully humiliated him and gotten his revenge. There’s even a line that could suggest Fletcher was testing Andrew with this piece that he’d never played before, saying afterwards something like “maybe you don’t have it” (although this could just as easily be seen as a final blow to Andrew’s confidence, since he was never going to be able to just play a complex jazz number without the music and having not heard it). But since Andrew returns and interrupts him with Caravan, Fletcher is initially pissed at him, but then begins to get behind him and realises that, in Andrew’s defiance to his humiliation, Fletcher gets his chance to have his own Charlie Parker.

  • Luis Javier Barrera

    hahahahahaha this post is hillarous.