Whiplash: the title refers to a jazz song. This film has nothing whatsoever to do with a litigation lawyer or a neck injury. I have two perspectives on this film. First of all, it is a riveting story about a music teacher, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), and his student, Andrew (Miles Teller). The quality of the acting and the music is outstanding, and J. K. Simmons deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance. Fletcher and Andrew are individuals driven to attain perfection. A significant portion of the movie takes place at the music college (Julliard in all but name) where Andrew is a freshman jazz drummer and Fletcher is the teacher of an elite jazz group. In the opening scenes, Andrew appears as a shy teenager, particularly in his initial interaction with Nicole (Melissa Benoist), a college student at Fordham who works at a movie theatre. There is a nice charm to Andrew and Nicole, and Nicole has a wonderful smile. We are shown, however, the extent of Andrew’s drive for perfection when he walks away from the relationship. Through an interaction at a family dinner scene, we also learn he has no social skills. This film is about the music and what it takes to become a true artist.
A story about what motivated Charley Parker to become a great jazz artist is told more than once. My alternate perspective stems from the fact that some of the scenes are difficult to watch. The film was written and directed by Damien Chazelle. Based on what Chazelle is presenting, it is a tribute to his skills that, at times during the film, I became physically uncomfortable due to the intensity of the psychological violence. Fletcher’s teaching style is tyrannical to the point of being abusive and, while admiring his talents, he is not a character you like. The excellent jazz score is by Justin Hurwitz. There is a lot to appreciate during this 105 minute film and it should receive a number of Oscar nominations. This film leaves you feeling uncomfortable about the extent to which ambition should or could control one’s life. Fletcher tells Andrew that the two words to avoid are “Good Job”; this film presents a viewpoint as to what it takes to go beyond “Good.”