Monday, January 26, 2015

Whiplash (2014)

Whiplash (2014)

Director: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist

Here’s another Oscar contender, as it is, Whiplash has been nominated for five awards which include Best Picture, Best Actor Nomination for J.K. Simmons, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Adapted Screenplay, now if you ask me, I think it has a shot at Film of the Year, simply because it’s such an engaging film, which is one of the great things about it, it’s a movie about a music student, a drummer, yet the film manages to be so tense! Well, this film got to me on a whole other level because I’m currently finishing my bachelor’s degree in education, and so of course, I saw it from the student-teacher perspective. Because obviously, there’s many theories as to how to educate a student, what to do and what not to do, so I loved how the film explored these themes and situations. So this review comes to you guys from the perspective of a future teacher, which might offer you a different point of view on the film.

Whiplash is all about Andre, a 19 year old percussionist who has just gotten accepted into one of the best music schools in New York. He practices often and hard because he wants to be “one of the greats”. Unfortunately, he soon meets Mr. Fletcher, the music teacher from hell. Mr. Fletcher’s education techniques are extreme and unorthodox, he insults, screams and smacks his students in the face. Questions immediately arise. Is he too extreme? Does he achieve anything by intimidating his students? Is he going too far with his methods? Is it worth it? Or is he just a whacko blowing off steam with his students? Of course, we’re all rooting for Andre to make it, but will he make it with such a hellish music teacher breathing down his neck?

This movie touches upon many themes, but one of them is the choice that a person who wants to be “one of the greats” has to make when the time comes to choose between love or career. This is a conundrum that those completely dedicated to their careers eventually stumble upon, to love someone or to love what you do? The idea being that if you’re going to be 100% dedicated to something, you cannot have time for love. Whiplash reminded me of The RedShoes (1948) and Black Swan (2010) in that sense. But ultimately, Whiplash is an inspirational film because it introduces to a character who doesn’t let anything get in the way of getting where he wants to go. He wants to be the best of the best, unfortunately, his extreme teacher serves as a stumbling block. Some might see it another way, some might see Mr. Fletchers methods as extreme, yet effective. How did I see this film, from the perspective of a future educator?

Well, in the film, Mr. Fletcher has a peculiar way of pushing his students to their limits. He speaks at them in a very candid matter, quite a few ‘fucks’ are said on this film (and interesting drinking game would be to take a shot every time the word is said) not to mention other beautiful words like ‘faggot’ and ‘cocksucker’, but these aren’t high school kids, and to be honest, college professors can sometimes be very candid. But at the same time, you’ll feel that Mr. Fletcher is going just a little too far, he’s methods are harmful in a way that affects the student’s self esteem and psyche. I mean, I’m all for helping students achieve their maximum potential, but is there a line? That is the main question that the film addresses. And I say yes, there has to be a line. You cannot for example humiliate a student to the point that he’ll commit suicide. This film is being compared with Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987) for a reason: the teacher behaves in the same manner as R. Lee Ermey’s ‘Sgt. Hartman’, screaming and hollering at his students like if they were in the military. I’d say Whiplash is a mash up between Full Metal Jacket and Fame (1980), strange comparison I know, but that’s exactly what it feels like. 

 I’m glad that J.K. Simmons was nominated for an Oscar, his performances is quite good. I’m sure he was chosen for his explosive personality, some of you might remember him as J. Jonah Jameson, editor of ‘The Daily Bugle’ in the old Spiderman movies, he’s the guy that always screams and insults Peter Parker. On Whiplash he does that, but with a decidedly more serious and deadly tone. J.K. Simmons plays a character that you’ll either admire for his extreme methods or completely hate. In any case, he also comes off as a very human character. He’s not the squeaky clean, pitch perfect wholesome teacher you’ve seen in so many movies centered around education, like say Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995) or Dangerous Minds (1995). I also loved Miles Teller’s character, Andrew, a very vulnerable yet headstrong character. He proves to be Mr. Fletcher’s biggest challenge. There’s this amazing scene where Andrew is completely humiliated by Mr. Fletcher, and he sort of gives up, but then turns things around and decides to give Mr. Fletcher the old “fuck you man, I know I’m good!”. This was a scene that I loved because sometimes as a student, you have to stand up to a particularly idiotic professor, you know, the snobbish kind, with those damned egos. If there is one thing this film proves is that there is such a thing as a bad teacher and that sometimes personal problems and personality traits can get in the way of the teaching, and that’s when the student has to stand up for himself, because we all have our pride and self esteem to protect. Whiplash gets a perfect score from me, a very satisfying film, you won’t know where it’s going or how it’s going to end, it deserves an award for that alone.

Rating: 5 out of 5  

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