For whatever reason, the typical apathy that accompanies the near graduates of senior year of college has affected my movie watching. I will come home after a long day and instead of immediately putting on a movie or watching some tv show, I'll take it easy and listen to some new music. And when I do watch a movie, frequent bathroom breaks are taken. Phone is checked every five minutes. Friends don't believe me when I say this, family asks if I'm okay. This is all done in humor, but still. There's been some change and I'm unsure of where it came from. With this all in mind, Wednesday night I went to see Whiplash, a movie that folks at the Toronto International Film Festival loved. I had no other expectations other then for it to be good. And god damn. God daaaaaaaaamn.
Whiplash is about a young jazz drummer (Miles Teller) who attends one of the best music schools in the country under the tutelage of the school's fearsome maestro of jazz (J.K. Simmons in a role that, for lack of a better role, kicks ass in every sense of the phrase). It's a misleadingly slight premise. Inside the typical constructs of that kind of plot is a passionate, kinetic exploration of the costs and rewards of dedication. Dreams require effort. Painful, soul-wrenching effort. And Whiplash understands this better then most. The drumming student is pushed to be great and he does not relent under such pressure. He gives himself over to his aspirations, spending every waking moment of his life trying to live up to his own perceived potential, sacrificing and destroying many of the things most people walk through life hoping for. Whiplash neither celebrates nor condemns this approach to life and this is part of what gives it such power.
The movie also inspires on a basic technical level, often on all fronts. The camera work is stylish though not lavish, working hardest during the musical numbers to craft a sense of awe and energy that necessary us as a viewer to understand the passion this young man, hell anyone, feels for their craft. Music in film is easy to make interesting, but it takes a deft hand to make the meshing of image and music become truly singular, a stand out experience that could be experienced nowhere else. And god bless him, Damien Chazelle did just that. In the final scene alone, Chazelle makes a case for himself as a director with a fantastic understanding of kinetic filmmaking that is far beyond a man of his age.
Acting wise, Simmons and Teller both commit straight murder with their respective role. Simmons in particular spits and yells and growls his way into the pantheon of Vulgar Guys Who Tell It Like It Is, alongside Alec Baldwin in Glenn Gary Glenn Ross and Lee Erney in Full Metal Jacket. Not to rob Teller of his achievement though. If Simmons is the fun of the movie, Teller is the heart. He anchors the proceedings. And I mean the man both acts well and actually play the drums. How cool is that?
Typically when I fall in love with a movie, I can point to a specific moment when that happens. With Whiplash, that moment happened at least five different times. Helped me fall in love with movies all over again, which was somethng I needed. I'm not gonna demand you see it, but it'd be a good idea to do so.