Mentorship stories like Dead Poets Society, Freedom Writers, and even Sister Act – tell an inspiring story for youths in one neatly wrapped fluffy package. Whiplash does none of that Hollywoodized bullshit.
In a society where kids only need to show up and automatically get a token for participation, Fletcher insists that – there are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.
And so, the audience is taken into an intense plot wherein Fletcher pummels Neiman into shape through verbal, psychological, and physical abuse. These lessons include spending hours on getting the right tempo until the boy’s hands bleed and lying about someone’s death to manipulate his emotions.
The director expertly builds moments that grab and hold your attention through jump cuts and camerawork. A shot of Andrew from behind the drum set alternates with images of a tightly wound crew under pressure. Fletcher’s fresh round of emasculating and homophobic slurs interrupt every now and then. Every rehearsal is psychological warfare and you’re in the thick of it.
Miles Teller delivers a hyper-performance that electrify his drumming scenes. J.K. Simmons is perfectly cast as the foul-mouthed maestro from hell. The supporting cast is also worth mentioning. They are able to convey the heavy and exhausting pressure of being under the tutelage of Fletcher with minimal dialogue.
As the movie progresses, however, it ends up relying on convenient narrative coincidences to move the plot along. Fletcher, upon close inspection, is a caricature villain. None of his tactics is related to music or talent.
Still, Whiplash is more than just about music and mentorship. It looks at the real cost of greatness. It makes the audiences wonder – how far should you push your limits? is it all worth it to go out in flames for the sake of a legacy?
Whiplash ends with a life-affirming cathartic finish and leaves a lasting impression about the uncompromising path to greatness.
Whiplash is a compelling movie that tears the cliched prodigy story apart thanks to powerful performances and deft camerawork.