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Movie Review - Whiplash

Whiplash is a movie about jazz, genius and drumming, and on Tuesday night at a regular screening at the Varsity cinema, it received a standing ovation. I can’t remember the last time I have felt so engaged and emotionally connected to a film in a long time. It’s a real barnburner.

Whiplash tells the story of young Andrew, played by teen heart throb, Miles Teller, who is excellent as a frustrated but sturdy jazz student. He dreams of being one of the great jazz drummers, like his hero Buddy Rich. He is attending a top music conservatory in the US and is desperate to get noticed by a tyrant of a music instructor by the name of Fletcher. Fletcher is played with true vision by JK Simmons, who invokes the dark side of the business with his take no prisoners, football coach approach to band leadership.

Paul Reiser does a nice job playing Andrew’s dad in the film, but his tender approach to his son takes a distant second fiddle to the rage and frustration that plays out between Simmons and Teller as they fight each other to level the playing field.

Whiplash is the Sundance Film Festival sensation from earlier this year. The film was written and directed by Damien Chazelle; a 29 year old newcomer who had Hollywood buzzing first with his impressive screenplay, and then his film short that appeared the 2013 Sundance fest.

He has edited together a very compelling dramatic thriller here using a pulsing soundtrack, beautiful shots of a top notch killer big band bleeding for its craft, and the agonizing interplay of the master and student in battle. It’s breathtaking to witness, and really almost like taking in a Rocky movie, but with music replacing the boxing.

The film will also have you arguing with your fellow moviegoers, or even with yourself about whether this teacher’s methods are valid, or destructive. He is terrifying, but he also squeezing excellence from his students.

There is also no doubt that this film is emotionally manipulative. I don’t know that a teacher as mean as Fletcher really exists. This sort of ‘bring him to the breaking point’ mentality is enhanced to Hollywood heights, almost to the point of fantasy. This type of jazz jock mentality may have some reeling with anger.

It has started an exclusive run at the Varsity Cinema. Whiplash is one of the best films of the year.


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