Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Whiplash Review

Here's a review for another smaller indie/festival film that has finally made it around to debuting in theaters nationwide. If you are one who doesn't really follow the Oscar buzz, Whiplash may be a movie that is completely off your radar. On the other hand, if you are someone like me who spends more time than you would care to admit following the Oscar buzz, then Whiplash is a movie that you've been to dying to see. Despite all the buzz, Whiplash has struggled to gain a huge nationwide audience and thus is starting to slip a bit, which might mean that there will be a large group of people who will pay attention to the Oscar nominations in January and will be wondering what in the heck this Whiplash movie is. So let me attempt to remedy this for at least a few of you. If Whiplash is a movie that is not on your radar at all, you need to put it on your radar and figure out a way to see it because Whiplash is one of the most interesting films of the year that will make it even harder for me to make my end-of-year top movies of the year list.

What is Whiplash? Whiplash is actually the name of a piece of music. A jazz piece if we are being specific. Yes, this movie is a musical drama and very well done one at that. Being even more specific, Whiplash follows a young college kid named Andrew who has this goal to be one of the greatest drummers. He doesn't want to satisfy himself with decent or good. He wants great. And he plans on sacrificing whatever it takes in order to make it to that level. So he gets into this prestigious music school and makes it into this special Jazz band with quite the intense band director who has this philosophy of pushing his students past the breaking point with the end goal in mind of making them great and helping them discover the levels that they can reach if they have a huge drive to be successful. I don't know if that description sounds like the most interesting movie out there, but let me tell you this movie is really intense. First off, it did take me down memory lane a bit. I didn't ever take Jazz band, but I did take concert band throughout Junior High and High School and it was a lot of fun. So it was cool to see the practice sessions in the movie.

However, this is not your typical band class. And I've never actually taken any band class in college, so I guess I can't say this for sure, but I don't know if there's any band director that is actually as crazy as this one played by J.K. Simmons. The man is insane. You're sitting here in these practice sessions, playing a piece of music, when suddenly he detects that someone is out of tune and he stops everyone and starts yelling at them until someone admits they are the one that's one of tune. Then a bit later, a chair goes flying when our main character, played by Miles Teller, is either dragging or rushing on the drum set and he can't figure out each one. You can say this is a bit exaggerated, but it sure did make for an excellent movie. And holy cow, the acting in the movie is totally off the charts. J.K. Simmons has been the front-runner to win the best supporting actor award at the Oscars for some time now and that would be well deserved if it comes to fruition. What really shocked me, though, was how amazing Miles Teller was. I haven't seen very much of him outside of Divergent from earlier this year. He wasn't bad in that movie, but based on that performance, I wasn't expecting this from him at all. In a really intense best actor race, I don't expect him to get recognized, but I'd call this a break-out performance from him that definitely makes him deserving of more big roles in the future.

Outside the amazing acting in the movie, what really makes it work is the interesting debate it brings up. What are you willing to sacrifice for greatness? And it is worth it? Is it better to be 34 and dead while being remembered by the whole world or is it better to be 90 years old and less successful while only being remembered by your family and friends? I mean, if Miles Teller would stop and smell the roses, he'd realize that he has a lot of things going for him. His dad cares a lot about him. His extended family seems to be around frequently and they seem cool. He has this girl that likes him a lot despite the really awkward interactions they've had. He's been accepted to this school that seems like it's pretty prestigious. But for some reason, he can't recognize all this good around him and instead tries to push it all away in order to be great. Is it worth it? On the other side of things, J.K. Simmons has this honest desire to keep Jazz music relevant. And when he sits down and talks to the students individually, he's really a nice guy. But he just pushes his students so hard, you wonder if he has crossed a line. He doesn't believe in telling people that they've done a good job, because then they get complacent and won't push themselves harder. I mean, that's a legit point he has. And it works when it comes to competitions. But is it worth it? These are the types of questions this movie asks and what makes it better is that it ends in a way that leaves the questions open for interpretation.

I obviously don't want to talk much about the ending, but I will say it was a very effective ending in terms of the emotional punch that it gives. First off, it could've ended about five times, but kept going. Sometimes this is a complaint, but in this case it was effective. Each time I thought the movie was about to end, I was ready to be impressed with it. It brought up themes and questions that would've made the movie very interesting and relevant, but it kept going and each new potential ending added an additional deep layer to it so that by the time it actually ended, I was totally blown away. The movie is quite the thrill ride. I didn't know what to expect from this movie as I went in. All I knew was that it was a musical drama centered around a drummer. But after leaving the movie, I definitely understood what all the hype was about. This movie is fantastic! Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons knock it out of the park. And the questions that the movie poses are really interesting. So yes, if this movie is at a theater near you, definitely check it out. If it's not, then I would say it's a movie worth searching for. Find a way to watch this. I give Whiplash a 9.5/10.

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