Whiplash Blu-ray Review
Andrew (Teller) is a young drummer at the Shaffer Conservatory of Music. While in the middle of practicing with his junior band class, the well respected band conductor Fletcher (Simmons) comes into his class and chooses Andrew to join the prestigious studio band. What transpires is a disturbing mentor to student relationship where Fletcher yells, demeans, insults and even physically abuses Andrew, all in the name of making him a better drummer. Director Damien Chazelle has crafted a film that makes us question the techniques of Fletcher, the tolerance of Andrew and our own ideas of what it takes to be great.
Early in WHIPLASH, Fletcher turns to Andrew and tells him that there are no two words in the English language more harmful than “good job”. I had never really thought about that before, but as the events in WHIPLASH progressed, I began to buy into it. As I watched Fletcher relentlessly abuse Andrew, I realized that I wanted Andrew to be successful and get another “good job” probably more than I wanted Fletcher to take it easy on him. We know Andrew wants to be the greatest drummer of all time and we see in his demeanor and personality that he doesn’t quite know how to get there. So while we’re offended and at times disgusted by Fletcher’s constant battery, there’s a small part of us that wants Andrew to respond to it and actually be a great drummer. Part of that is the audience’s respect for anyone that wants to be the best in their profession and part of that is the masterful direction and screenwriting of Damien Chazelle.
As evidenced by the numerous awards he won for the film, this is clearly the role of the lifetime for J.K. Simmons. But it’s almost unfair that he has received so much credit because Miles Teller gives his best performance to date. In some ways, it’s easy to pull off the angry jerk in a movie, but it’s hard to sit and take the abuse without turning into a helpless victim. But Teller pulls it off, making us feel bad for him at the same time we’re cheering him on. Towards the end of the film, there’s a scene where Fletcher gets in trouble with the school board for his techniques and as the camera follows Andrew, you can see on his face that he’s more consumed by the idea he’s not going to reach his potential than he is relieved he won’t have to deal with Fletcher anymore. Miles Teller pulls that off wonderfully, truly carrying the underlying themes in the film.
Some people will be appalled by Fletcher’s drill-sergeant like techniques in the film (as you should be), while others will be able to relate to what Andrew is going through. But what I liked most about the film is how it made the audience question greatness and the price it comes with. WHIPLASH is a truly powerful film and easily one of the best films of 2014.
Video: WHIPLASH features a very impressive video transfer, with what little color was used in the film popping through beautifully.
Audio: The audio was equally impressive.
Commentary with J.K. Simmons and Damien Chazelle: What a great commentary for a great film. Chazelle covers all aspects of making the film while Simmons is his usual, lighthearted self. I found this to be very easy and fun to listen to and well worth a listen.
Timekeepers (42:55): This is a real life look at some real drummers talking about their careers, inspirations and teachers. For someone that doesn’t know much about music, I thought this was an interesting companion piece to WHIPLASH.
Whiplash Original Short Film (17:58): This is the short film that inspired the movie. You can also watch this with commentary from Chazelle and the producers.
Deleted scene (1:29): One scene featuring Fletcher that feels completely out of place. Good thing it was cut.
An evening at TIFF (7:49): The cast talks with a moderator at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Trailer and Previews