Enduring Whiplash…

photo:danielmcfadden
photo:danielmcfadden

Head on collision…heavy emotional impact.

I rarely have experienced such a visceral reaction to a movie.

Whiplash really shakes you up…it is so uncomfortably intense. For me it was analogous to experiencing violent turbulence on a plane. It was a very bumpy ride, but well worth the journey.

Here’s the scoop…a promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat, competitive music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

Damien Chazelle photo:latimes.com
Damien Chazelle photo:latimes.com

Written and directed by 29 year-old Damien Chazelle and filmed in 19 days, Whiplash is largely an autobiographical tale.

The movie features an amazingly talented cast consisting of Miles Teller. J.K. Simmons (he won a Golden Globe for his performance), Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist.

Chazelle grew up in Princeton, N.J. where his parents are college professors. Chazelle himself was a music prodigy, a jazz drummer in the hypercompetitive Princeton High School Band.

Like the protagonist in the film, Chazelle suffered the consequences of an abusive instructor. He remembers sitting behind his drum kit, head down, cowering, growing increasingly frustrated with his teacher’s bullying. He ultimately punched his fist through his drum.

” ‘You’re rushing, you’re dragging, not my tempo!’ ” Chazelle remembers his teacher’s constant, insulting shouting. “Those are the words I heard most often throughout all of high school.” They are echoed frequently throughout the film.

Miles Teller as Daniel Neiman, Whiplash photo:lamag.com
Miles Teller as Daniel Neiman, Whiplash photo:lamag.com

Chazelle really wanted Miles Teller to star in Whiplash, but there was one major hurdle. Teller didn’t really know how to drum, at least not well enough to portray a jazz prodigy.

Chazelle went ahead and cast him anyway. He ultimately transported his own Yamaha drum set to the basement of Teller’s home in Los Angeles and conducted instant private lessons.

Whiplash is close to perfect. It is so uncomfortably real. There were several times where I looked away not being able to deal with the physical and emotional pain.

J.K. Simmons  photo:variety.com
J.K. Simmons photo:variety.com

J.K. Simmons is riveting in the role. His portrayal of the complex and manipulative professor is gripping…he makes you admire and hate him simultaneously. Miles Teller is accomplished both as an actor and musician in this psychological thriller.

Whiplash should be at the top of your Must See list.

Whiplash. Running time: 106 minutes. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist.

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