Whiplash (15)

Directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring Miles Teller, JK Simmons, Melissa Benoist

Jazz drumming, bullying teacher, that drippy girl from Glee. This wasn't the most promising setup for seeing this film. I was also the only one in the cinema, but as it turns out, they were really missing out as this was a fantastic film! JK Simmons and Miles Teller as the teacher and student play out a deeply twisted relationship as Teller's ambitious young drummer takes all kinds of abuse, physical and verbal, from the leader of the jazz orchestra at a prestigious NY music school. However, the film has some really unusual and subversive things to say about what is acceptable in the pursuit of musical perfection.
Simmons pours scorn on encouragement and praise, believing only by refusing to accept anything less than excellence can a musician improve. His methods are intense and brutal - more Joe Pesci in Goodfellas than Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting. On the other hand, Teller takes it all; even ditching drippy girlfriend so she won't distract him, and proving himself a pretty obnoxious ass himself when lording it over sports playing relatives.
What I especially liked was the uncompromising lack of syrup. This is no feel-good, uplifting tale. It is blackly comic and one of the most tense films I've seen in a while. It really keeps you guessing about whether Simmons actually had a heart or really is just a mean bastard!
Great performances - JK Simmons deservedly taking home Best Supporting Actor this year but Miles Teller was fantastic too. However, Simmons is probably the scariest, most uncompromising bastard we've seen onscreen in a long time. Not exactly a role model for teachers though!
A fabulously gripping and involving film. Ignore the unpromising premise.
Try to keep up! Definitely my tempo! 9/10

January 2015

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