Movie Review: Whiplash

CAST: Miles Teller, JK Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melisa Benoist, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Chris Mulkey, Damon Gupton

DIRECTOR: Damien Chazelle

WRITER: Damien Chazelle

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sharone Meir

RELEASED: 2014

Terrence Fletcher is a passionate educator, a music enthusiast, and a jazz connoisseur of the highest order. Terrence Fletcher is also a monster, a man capable of crushing spirits and breaking hearts of students. Terrence Fletcher is equal parts fascinating and frightening. In the hands of an incredible actor like JK Simmons, Terrence Fletcher is an irresistible nightmare. In collaboration with another terrific actor like Miles Teller, Terrence Fletcher transforms into a complicated man, effortless at provoking conflicting emotions from the audience. Under the guidance of a promising, sure-footed director like Damien Chazelle, Terrence Fletcher blossoms into one of the most memorable characters in cinema. Simmons, Teller, and Chazelle comprise the artistic and emotional core of this nail-biting tale of a teacher, a student, and jazz.

Buried underneath the blanket of buzz surrounding the performance of Simmons is Miles Teller. He is as good as the rest of actors getting recognitions for their lead performances. In fact, I argue, he is far more qualified than most of the nominees. Like his character, he bled for perfection to capture the heart and soul of a music student suffering from the teaching methods of his mentor. For the most part, his character is an unfortunate collage of pain and failure, until he proved himself to his teacher in one crucial jazz performance. His triumph is a beautiful blend of the celebration of human spirit and a throbbing middle finger to all his critics.

Simmons, on the other hand, created a modern monster in Terrence Fletcher. He delivered one of the best oh-f*ck-he-did-not moments in films, after turning the table on his unsuspecting student. Unflinching and uncompromising, the Machiavellian Fletcher is a sadist, a liar, and a master of deception. But he is also passionate about his craft and profession. Best of all, he gets the job done. Once a person recognizes the positive qualities of a monster, the monster has accomplished half his mission. Simmons delivered an accomplished performance and a monster of an actor.

One of best things about this film is it makes people rethink their moral codes. Fletcher is reprehensible, but in our prevailing results-based culture, he is a hero. Fletchers populate the business, the government, and of course, the education sector. He is no different from tiger moms. He is no different from boss-from-hells. He is no different from strict drill masters. He is no different from modern sports athletes. Michael Jordan got bad rep for being too hard on his teammates. Once he started collecting championships, the public stopped bringing up this fact. Instead, people lionized him. He became the metric for basketball greatness, despite being a Fletcher. Our culture molds Fletchers in order to select the strongest and the best. In a fictional setting like a film, Fletcher is a monster. In real life, he is our sage for success.

Of the eight best picture nominees, WHIPLASH is the most X, or the unlikeliest Oscar candidate. It is not a biopic, not an epic, not the kind of stuff Oscars go for. But its should get recognition because it is fresh, it is smart, it is an acting masterpiece, and it is also quite entertaining.

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