By Darryl Griffiths @legallyBOD
‘There are no two words more harmful in the English language than good job.’ Regardless of our chosen fields, many of us have been exposed to the idea of a ‘mentor’ as we strive to reach the pinnacle of our professions. Guiding us. Driving us.
Some, heavy on sentimentality as they nurture. Others, toeing the line between firm and fair. Finally, we have the morally questionable drill sergeants, brimming with squirm-inducing bile that rings and sporadically soaks our eardrums.
Damien Chazelle’s directorial debut embraces the erratic extremities of the latter as we see an unsettling teacher/student relationship unfold in a jazzed-up Big Apple. From the outset, the first-year promise of Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is undeniable, beating to his own drum in the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory, aspiring for greatness rather than seeing his life cluttered with throwaway two-faced friends.
The relentless demands of Terence Fletcher (J.K Simmons) matching Andrew’s eagerness to succeed, he’s soon plunged into the talented confines of the college’s main band as Fletcher craves an alternative drummer to push its current primary. The initial, seemingly harmless inquisition into Andrew’s family and their musical ‘history’ soon dissipates, as his intense methods engulf the practice room. Chairs are thrown. Voices are raised. Resolves are tested. But is there underlying method to such madness?
The meticulous craft and boundless creativity poured into a passion perceived as odd or outdated, never reaching the levels of appreciation one wants from their parents whilst they gush over the overwhelming popularity of another familial success. Almost becoming content with the loneliness that is often associated with such striving, as the apprehensive ‘artist’ rebels against the sights, sounds and concepts of what are considered normal and everyday.
From the lean screenplay to the dizzying kinetic energy that is instilled into many of the film’s frames, director Chazelle is as incisive and orchestrative as the film’s formidable ‘foe’ with its show-stopping sequences brimming with verve, whilst mirroring the steely determination of its young protagonist as he makes his mark, delving into psychological body-horror territory.
The blood dripping. The beads of sweat hitting the cymbals. The single tear rolling. Miles Teller’s Andrew Neiman never wilts in an impressive, emotionally exhausting performance, holding his own against the brilliantly monstrous complexities of J.K Simmons’ Terence Fletcher, whom for all his occasionally hilarious/always intense villainy, teases unlikely sympathy for his tough stance. Prompting the question.. In a modern world where ambition is often now frowned upon, are we in greater need of such an unorthodox approach?
A visceral and ferocious cinematic experience you’ll find tough to shake, yet want to applaud by the end of its stunning finale.
‘Whiplash’.. Good job Damien? No. Bravo.
Whiplash is on general release from Friday 16th January.