mon 15/07/2024

DVD: Whiplash | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Whiplash

DVD: Whiplash

A thriller about jazz drumming - what's not to like?

Miles Teller and JK Simmons in rehearsal

Any parent, or anyone who's ever stood in front of a class needs to watch Whiplash. In a film brimming over with ideas, the recurring question is whether or not your pupils will ever achieve greatness if you overpraise them. As JK Simmons's Terence Fletcher explains, the most harmful words in the English language are “good job”.

He refers to an inexperienced Charlie Parker having a cymbal thrown at him by an angry bandmate, and the first major shock in Whiplash comes when an enraged Fletcher hurls a chair at student drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) during a rehearsal. Fletcher's pantomimic villain schtick does arguably achieve results, and it's tempting to conclude that the ends justify the means.

Damien Chazelle’s direction makes Whiplash’s forward motion as giddying as the tricksy Hank Levy composition which gives the film its title. And as a portrait of music making, it succeeds, despite occasional inaccuracies. Those who have struggled in school orchestra rehearsals will wince as Fletcher subjects his conservatoire musicians to volley after volley of sexist and homophobic abuse. We think of jazz as a laid-back, smudgy musical genre, so it’s darkly funny to see the autocratic, bullying Fletcher demanding such pin-sharp precision from the players. Simmons’ Fletcher is a magnificent, snarling creation, his perpetual scowl lifting just a couple of times – enough to make us wonder if he really is such a monster. “Enjoy yourself,” he tells a terrified Neiman, “the key is just to relax.”

Teller’s Neiman rises to the challenge, unafraid to show his character’s grubbier side – cruelly ditching his girlfriend and dishing out snobbish put-downs at a family dinner party. But, by the end, Chazelle has us rooting for him. Whiplash’s bravura final sequence is thrilling, making us forget the plot inconsistencies and lurches of tone. What is Fletcher’s back story? If he’s such a great musician, why is he teaching at a conservatoire? We’re not told. No matter. The soundtrack is terrific, and the supporting cast is strong – look out for entertaining turns from Nate Lang and Austin Stowell as Neiman’s fellow drummers. Extras include an entertaining interview with director and stars, and a witty commentary from Chazelle and Simmons.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Whiplash

Watch the trailer for Whiplash


Whiplash’s forward motion is as giddying as the Hank Levy composition which gives the film its title


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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