An Encore, Please?
By Adam Sturrock
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Miles Teller, J.K Simmons
Andrew Neilman (Teller) is literally pouring himself over his drum set. His sweat slathers the constantly hammered cymbals and what other parts left of his equipment are coated in globules of crimson ink. Eyes bulging, he hammers double time with furious determination alongside the brisk band ensemble piece, and while his muscles strain and tear, his instructor looms over him, screaming “FASTER!!”.
Relative newcomer director, David Chazelle, asks if becoming a great requires total sacrifice to the cause, and if being ground down and snapped in two is the only way to return bigger and better than ever.
Talent will only get you half way, but do instructors have to beat you into a pulp and leave you blistered and bleeding to get to the lofty heights of artists like Charlie Parker? Simmons, who plays the storm cloud-coach of swear words, Terence Fletcher, seems to think so. He wasn’t hired by the Conservatory to coach, he says he was there to “push people beyond what was expected of them. (He) I Believe that that’s an absolute necessity.”
Don’t get me wrong, Miles Teller is exhilarating in the role of the rookie drummer in this film, but it was always going to be the Simmons one man show. For once, a script has managed to catch up with him and he seems to relish every moment of it. In one of the many scenes, Fletcher wears down Neiman with his brutal insults: “Were you rushing or were you dragging? If you deliberately sabotage my band, I will gut you like a pig.”
But the film stays on the fence as to who is the real villain. Should we boo Fletcher for trying to push his band to their peak by stepping his foot down when they aren’t meeting the mark or Andrew who, like a demanding child, thinks wanting is equal to absolutely deserving center stage?
If I told you what the film was about, you’d think it sounded terrible, but to actually see it is a different story. The film is nearly flawless, on one occasion it tries to ramp up melodrama and it sours the film by a small fraction, but at the speed it maintains, Whiplash nearly leaves you breathless, and has one of the most delightfully satisfying endings in recent memory.