Astonishment awaits in Whiplash, a simple story remarkably told about student and teacher, mentor and protégé, friends, and then foes.
Miles Teller breaks out as Andrew Neyman, a determined 19-year-old jazz drummer aspiring to be the best there is and was while attending a prestigious New York school. Standing in the way is immense mental, emotional, and physical pressure, all of which is felt to a staggering, exhaustive degree.
Much of the fear and frustration Neyman encounters is manifested in and by Terence Fletcher, a teacher of renown and esteem. The ominous, unpredictable presence lurking is played with incredibly energy and passion by J.K. Simmons, and like the pain Andrew endures, we feel the tension every time he appears on screen.
His introduction finds Fletcher emerging from the shadows to listen as Neyman plays. There subsequent conversation includes the phrase, “Do you know who I am?”
This story written and directed by Damien Chazelle is a gripping adventure from the start, a twisting and twisted tale about pushing yourself to and beyond your limits. And pushing others.
See, Fletcher will prove divisive; Neyman as well, to a lesser degree. It’s a question of whether or not the former’s methods and the latter’s response is not only righteous, but required. Neyman has no interest in being ordinary, so Fletcher seeks to bring forth the best of him. He swears and shouts and throws objects, but shows clear moments of earnestness and dedication.
Neyman meanwhile isn’t just some precocious youngster being harassed. He mocks the adoration given to those in his family who have more practical career paths and tangible accomplishments. He sweetly asks out a girl but admits that nothing will ever be more important than his drumming.
Be not wary of expletives, sweat, tears, and blood; it’s all there. Whiplash is an intimate and profound journey with the monomaniacal Neyman and the tyrannical Fletcher. It’s no surprise that the finale involves music, but how it plays out is utterly mesmerizing.