Andrew (Miles Teller) is a drummer. He is attending the most prestigious music school in the country. Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is the ruthless director of the studio band, the elite band at the school. They win most of the competitions they attend. When Fletcher walks in on Andrew practicing, Fletcher invites him to sit in with the studio band as an alternate. After an incident at a competition, Andrew is given the role as the core drummer, meaning he will be the one performing, rather than turning the pages.
Fletcher’s methods include screaming, cursing, and berating the students. His intent is to make them the best musicians they can be, but it does have an effect on their psyches. When Fletcher introduces an almost impossible piece, and another alternate drummer, Andrew and the others compete to see who can keep up with Simmons’ tempo. Andrew’s determination is the only thing keeping him in the running.
During the final competition, a series of unfortunate events befall Andrew, leaving his status in the studio band, and at the school in jeopardy.
Whiplash is an interesting film. A good portion of the film focuses on Miles Teller practicing so long and hard that he bleeds all over the drums. The rest of the film is J.K. Simmons screaming and swearing at the students.
Part of what makes the film so convincing and watchable is that Miles actually knows how to play the drums. Key if you’re the star of a movie about a drummer. He also spent a good amount of time with a jazz drummer to help make it even more convincing. When you see Miles drumming, it doesn’t come off looking faked. J.K. Simmons holds his own against Miles. There was no faking his yelling or swearing. Granted, some of the language is harsh and not what would be considered “P.C.” by any means, but it adds to the authenticity of the character. I would have to imagine at such a competitive music school, the instructors would behave exactly as Simmons’ character did.
I will admit, I was having a bit of trouble really getting into the movie at first. Not that I thought it was bad. It just wasn’t grabbing my attention. However, as I watched the second half of the film a second time, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Rather than try to figure out what was going to happen, I was able to sit back and just watch it happen. It made for a completely different feel to the film.
I would definitely recommend picking up Whiplash. It is an entertaining movie, even if you have to watch it twice. Watching Miles and Simmons spar is magnificent. The 9-minute drum solo at the end of the film just adds to it.