Running Time: 107 mins.
Premise: A talented, determined young drummer (Miles Teller) at a prestigious music school is put to the test by his abusive, psychologically manipulative professor (J.K. Simmons), as he strives to achieve greatness.
Behind-the-Scenes: Took the top two prizes at Sundance earlier this year: the Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic) and the Dramatic Audience Award.
The Good: J.K. Simmons flat-out owns this movie the second he walks on screen, and immediately establishes himself as the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor at this year's Oscars. Equally good is Teller, who excels at playing relatable, self-aware jackasses that are both compelling and likeable despite their flaws. Plus, he plays a mean set of drums. Even if you know next to nothing about jazz music or musicians, director Damian Chazelle (who also wrote the screenplay) does a fantastic job of throwing the viewers into the music school setting, orientating them, and then selling the drama. There are big, showy moments in the film, but Chazelle keeps a tight focus and never lets those moments get away from him or go over-the-top. The script always kept me guessing as to its intentions - was it going to be a rousing, inspirational drama or a scary cautionary tale about the pursuit of greatness at every cost? Turns out, it's a bit of both. But, I walked away from Whiplash thoroughly entertained and deeply inspired. The final sequence is a showstopper.
The Bad: A romantic subplot between Teller's Andrew and his girlfriend, Nicole, gets short shrift, but then again, I think that was kind of the point.
Should You See It?: Yes. Big yes. Huge yes. A must see.
Star Rating: ***** out of 5 stars.
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