Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Whiplash": Miles Teller carries the film as an athletic drummer


Whiplash” (directed by Damien Chazelle) is a confrontation between two strong characters:  19 year old conservatory student Andrew (Miles Teller, who dominates the film), and the sharp-tongued band class leader Fletcher (J. K. Simmons) who barks at his students like a Marine drill sergeant.  I never thought of a music college as like the military.

I also never realized there was so much skill involved in playing drums, which becomes a bit of an athletic activity.  Fletcher keeps setting up “contests” with other drummers, especially Ryan (Austin Stowell), and frankly acts like a bully.  A few times, he utters lines about gay pride that are a bit short of homophobic, but they shock us when we hear them now.  In fact, Andrew has a girl friend Nicole (Melissa Benoist) whom he ditches in one coffee shop scene because, well, she isn’t going to be good enough for him when he has to strive for such perfection in his own life craft. I know the feeling.
  
There is a critical sequence where the kids take a bus out to suburban New Jersey to a concert.  When the bus gets a flat tire, Andrew rents a car (not sure how he does this under 25) and wrecks it, talking on the cell phone as he drives, and crawls out after the car rolls over and still gets to the concert, all bloodied. Not sure how the other kids got there.
  
A critical plot point concerns a band member’s losing his printed score and not having memorized the music (the title “Whiplash” refers to one of the items they play).  I wondered, why doesn’t he use iPads for the score?
  
I’m not sure I buy Fletcher’s quasi-redemption or Andrew’s conquest in the final performance.
  
The official site is here (Sony Pictures Classics).  This film was a major hit at the 2014 Sundance. 


There is another YouTube clip where Miles Teller (himself a musician) drums with The Roots on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on NBC.  I would wonder if he has performed with The Metropolis Ensemble. 

The film takes places in New York and New Jersey, but all the indoor scenes were filmed in LA, as was the one outdoor crash sequence.  This film does not have the New York State trademark for indie film.
  
I saw the film before a fair Friday night audience at the AMC Shirlington. 

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