For lovers of jazz music and of stories dealing with young artists trying to find their way, this 2014 movie has it all.
A young drummer, Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is accepted into Shaffer Conservatory, one of the best music schools in the country and yearns for the approval of Terence Fletcher, the school’s intimidating and legendary master (J. K. Simmons, in his best role since “Juno”). Fletcher is only interested in the best of the best students and hopes to find the next Charlie Parker, only to be continually disappointed.
The sacrifices Andrew makes in order to please Fletcher exact a hefty price on his personal life. He begins to practice maniacally in order to achieve his dream, not unlike the Hans Christian Anderson tale of the little dancer, in the “Red Shoes”. Fletcher turns Shaffer Conservatory into a hellish musical boot camp, cutthroat and ruthless, with resentment and bitter rivalries. One student is pitted against another as if in a percussionist’s coliseum.
The ferocious lead performances (Teller and Simmons) in “Whiplash” impute a mesmerizing power on the viewer, who witnesses a psychological struggle between teacher and pupil that is both unsettling and riveting. The parameters of artistic sacrifice in the face of a tyrannical teacher are questioned but not answered. Psychologically disturbing and thrilling all at once, we see a young prodigy become enslaved to his own ambition. These performances are not to be missed.