By Maria Katafigioti (Athens, Greece)
Sunday we saw the movie Whiplash which was kind of amazing. I know that the Academy Awards are torn this year, with no clear winner of the movie of the year. I have seen most of the movies vying for that title, enjoyed many of them thoroughly, but surprisingly, for me, Whiplash stood out of the absolute, mesmerizing best.
First of all, I was struck by the amazing cinematographic sweep. The director managed to shoot some great, tight moments. The acting by Mr. Tenner, as the aspiring student drummer, and Mr. Simmons was impeccable, but more than that, a small jazz movie somehow managed to keep me at the edge of my seat for two hours, something I can say of relatively few thrillers, even. It was a sports/ military movie about music.
This was the kind of mentor-mentee tension drama that I was waiting for. No sentimental bond between the teacher and the student here, it was a visceral tense, sometimes violent (in more than one way) relationship that will make the audience uneasy at times but also break your stereotypes about pushing boundaries and getting out of your comfort zone.
Simmons, as the ruthlessly dedicated and immensely talented perfectionist jazz band leader Fletcher, is multidimensional, wrought by the tragic death of one of his few successful students, unapologetic in his desire to find his Charlie Parker and push him to the brim of greatness. Throughout the movie, completely un-PC, hilariously pungent, poetically creative invective flows in rhythm with the powerfully performed music pieces.
Mediocrity is scorned, and the student contributes as much to his own somewhat destructive path to greatness as his musical coach. There are no easy answers, and even at the end of the film, we remain conflicted on the relationship between the two, about the way Neyman, the student, perceives his seemingly abusive coach, but we are also blown away by the powerful performance, both acting and musical and the creative way Neyman ends up resolving the final battle with Fletcher.
I have wanted to see this movie ever since I saw that horrifying trailer. I was as spellbound as after watching 12 Years a Slave and could not get it out of my mind for quite a while afterwards. Amazing acting all around, Miles Teller as Andrew Neyman, J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher, Paul Reiser as Jim Neyman, Melissa Benoist as Nicole Austin Stowell as Ryan Connolly, Nate Lang as Carl Tanner, Chris Mulkey as Uncle Frank, Jayson Blair as Travis, Kavita Patil as Sophie Michael Cohen as Stagehand Dunellen, Kofi Siriboe as Greg, Suanne Spoke as Aunt Emma, April Grace as Rachel Bornholdt etc.