Five years after Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (best movie of 2009 according to the New York Times), the young and talented Damien Chazelle keeps the same obsession with jazz, but this time he’s directing what’s already known as the Full Metal Jacket of music movies. Indeed, the movie received the grand prize at the Deauville Festival & the grand jury prize at Sundance. The movie was shot in only 19 days. It is focused, has a crazy rhythm & ends up into a boost of adrenalin.
The screenplay could seem quite simple at first. Andrew, a young and passionate apprentice that would do anything to become the best jazz drummer in the world, is opposed to Terence Fletcher, the cruel and perfectionist teacher who will push him to exceed his limits. All of this is mixed with a love story and a difficult family background. We are just waiting for the non-surprising “happy end”. But it is actually surprising. Without breaking all those rules of a satisfying end, Whiplash hits where you don’t expect it: the original part is the treatment of the story. The director chose to tell it as if it was a war movie, and the result is stunning! It is hard to say more without spoiling everything, but expect some violence and tears, blood and broken instruments, awesome twists and screaming of rage.
The obvious asset of the film is its cast. Who are these two actors who have real on screen presence? You feel like you know their faces but yet you can’t really name a memorable part that they played… The young and promising Miles Teller was recently seen in the average Divergent, as the main role in The Spectacular Now. He but he also had a small and kind of useless part in Project X (I didn’t remember either) and a few movies that didn’t do well at the box-office. His career is quite recent but his incredible performance in this movie might put him in the spotlight & accelerate things for him. By the way, if you wonder how they tricked the drum-playing parts… they didn’t, this is how good he is. He will be seen in “La La Land”, the next film from the same director, with Emma Watson.
His teacher is played by the great J. K. Simmons, also used to be a supporting actor, that you might remember from Burn After Reading, Juno or the Spiderman movies from the early 2000’s (where he plays the best character in my humble opinion). He was an ambitious choice then. Even more when you know the two characters literally make the movie; none of the others really brings anything important to the table.
You’ll feel a little bit old when you’ll realize that the actor who plays the single dad in the story is Paul Reiser, the one who played the traitor in Aliens (Sorry for the spoil, but if you really never saw this movie, you don’t have anything to do on this website).
Considering the soundtrack, I have to say that even if I can appreciate jazz from time to time, I’m not willing to listen to the songs of the movie once more whereas it’s something I want to after seeing a great movie about music. The movie deals with a quite specific kind of jazz, very technical, and that will not work for everyone. It gives a really good rhythm to the movie though, and makes you want to take more interest in the drums.
So, yes, Whiplash is a really well played movie, the directing is incredible, the relationship between the two main actors is mind-blowing, but where does all of that take you? Is the story really going somewhere or do you have to see this poor kid suffer until the end for no reason? All I can say is that I spent all the credits with a large stupid smile and the best feeling ever. This ending was just the best! Maybe it is because I am a musician myself, or because it reminded me a lot of the art school I went to… I’ll have to wait for other people’s opinion to know if it was just a movie I loved for personal reasons or if everyone will see it as a masterpiece!