Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Friends have been telling me to catch this flick because, they have said, it has one of the greatest performances of the year in it by J. K. Simmons, an actor you might know from his playing the ironic but loving father in JUNO, or other such roles in film and on TV, but in WHIPLASH he surpasses all expectations you may have had of what his talent might produce. My friends were so right.

WHIPLASH is a coming of age story in terms of plot, a music institute student facing the challenges of competition on an extremely talented level and the machinations of his band teacher to push him to discover whether he has what it takes.

It reminded me of boot camp in the military, in terms of my own experience, but it also reminded me of people I've known who have gone to work in the top restaurants in the world or in Hollywood for top producers etc. and been overwhelmed by the level and intensity of the competition. The setting wouldn't matter at all, if it wasn't that the student (in a great performance by Miles Teller) is a drummer and drums add such a vibrant physicality to the performance and the music at the heart of the flick that that alone would have drawn me in.

But add to that the dynamic between mentor and student that builds to a level of tension that made me almost want to jump up and run out of the theater, and then brings that tension to an even higher level, in what amounts to an almost two character drama (though the other important characters to the story who have fewer scenes are all played perfectly as well), that I left the theater feeling emotional whiplash from the experience.

I brought my grandson and youngest son to see it, both drummers, and my oldest son, a bassist, and two of my youngest's friends, and they got the story and the drama and the tension and the greatness of the performances, but the one who was impacted the most, at least visibly, seemed to be me (as I wiped away tears, not of sorrow or even empathy, though some of the latter, but more of release, and I think maybe I caught my oldest son doing the same).

It's so good that despite the storyline being pretty basic and the devices pretty obvious I could go see it again tomorrow and I bet be equally blown away no matter what flaws my intellect might discern.

This is one powerful movie.

[PS: Much credit and hopefully some awards must go to the screenwriter and director Damien Chazelle as well.]

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