Whiplash


Damien Chazelle’s propulsive and profane Whiplash is an exhausting film about a talented and obsessive young drummer named Andrew (a terrific Miles Teller), who attends a New York conservatory where a demonic sadist named Fletcher (a terrifying J.K. Simmons) is the resident jazz guru. The film’s title is taken from a Hank Levy composition that Fletcher wants his ensemble to master for competitions. He doesn’t use the charts to teach his students how to play their instruments. Rather, he stabs  and eviscerates his players with music for reasons that are not altogether clear. Fletcher tells young Andrew that he is looking for his Charlie Parker, who, according to folklore, only became “Bird” after his mentor, Jo Jones, threw a cymbal at him in a fit of pique. That tale is probably apocryphal but Fletcher, a shameless manipulator, recounts it to beguile young Andrew, whom he then intimidates, threatens, curses and belittles. And still, amazingly, the boy, battered and bleeding, literally, wants to play for the bastard. Chazelle’s script is not without its narrative flaws, but the interplay between these two fine actors is combustible, and the words he puts in their mouths are rude and rhapsodic. Highly recommended.

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