Movie Review: Whiplash

“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’.” – Fletcher in”Whiplash”

“Whiplash” left me feeling about drums like “Requiem for a Dream” left me feeling about heroin. What these movies are sweetly poisoned with is blind, craving and (possibly) American ambition. If you haven’t seen either, well, now you’ve got something to do this weekend.

In a quip, “Whiplash” is about the aspiration of being legendary. The fact it takes place in a music school could be seen as inconsequential, but to view greatness one needs perspective. Andrew is a first year student at the most prestigious music school in the USA, possibly the world.  Fletcher is the teacher, the mentor, the catalyst for greatness. But what does one have to sacrifice for greatness? Neither character is all that likable, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sympathetic…or even worse, empathetic.

Everything about this film: the pacing, the editing, the view of a space few of us will ever peek into, let alone be a part of is done effectively. You can feel your muscles relax when the screen goes dark because you feel as punished as the drums Andrew dominates. Hollywood narrative begins to set in at time, letting you peek into a would-be happy ending before a dose of unfortunate, fictional reality renegades. Masochism is alive and well in “Whiplash.” For the characters and the viewer.

If this film is nominated for best everything, especially acting for Miles Teller and J.K Simmons, there may be some justice in criticism. Pretty amazing for a film shot in 19 days.

Two things this film reminded me of is how easy it is to take something like music for granted. The work and the discipline to create perfection in sound and then to excel at it is astonishing. There are currently 83,000 songs in my iTunes library. It’s daunting to think how much time, pain, creativity and focus it took to make those songs, even the bad ones. The other thing “Whiplash” reminded of is how god-damned intense Jazz music can be. I am off to dig up “Giant Steps” and try to listen to it as hard as I can.

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