I was not too excited about seeing Whiplash. I remember seeing Miles Teller on Jimmy Fallon a few months back, and he rubbed me the wrong way- seemed superior and egotistical. Then I saw a clip from Whiplash and JK Simmons‘s character annoyed me so much just as a person- not the actor, the character- that I didn’t know if I could watch a whole movie of that.
I bit the bullet and watched it. Thumbs up, people. Really good. It really didn’t take me long to be sucked in by Miles Teller, first off. Even if he is a jerky dude in real life, which may or may not be true, probably isn’t – he’s a good actor. And he looks like Bobby Darin to me, and I love Bobby Darin (Lazy River– on my top 10 list of favorite songs ever) so I was like, alright Miles, alright. Miles was good enough where I forgot he was acting- I wasn’t focusing on that- which is what I usually look for in good acting. His character was convincingly dedicated to furthering his drumming career and Teller was captivating enough to carry a lead. And to me, a non-musician, his drumming was near mind blowing. I’d like to hear musicians’ opinions on that.
I have some limited experience with crazy ass teachers in creative fields, and they are a pet peeve of mine. Trying to exert control for no reason other than to exert control, really. But JK Simmons really did nail it and gave things more depth than other actors may have.
What I liked about Whiplash is that they didn’t overdo the yelling scenes. They were intense, they were riveting, they drove the point home about who the characters were, what their motivations were, but the scenes were not overdone in quantity. Had there been too many such scenes, eye rolling would have commenced, but they stopped far short of that, fortunately.
The film had a different tone and mood and timing than a lot of stuff out there. I don’t know quite how to describe it. I will admit I was like, did they put a Fight Club filter over this? toward the beginning with some of the green coloration- but that, again, wasn’t overdone enough to be cliche, for me. From the point of view of set design, I was also really impressed. Things were subtle enough to not notice too much during scenes, but were clearly deliberately chosen. The rehearsal room, for example, being wood paneled and dark in color, with only one exit. Added a lot to those scenes. Evoked richness, elitism, but felt stifling, stuffed into the basement corner of a building where no one would hear what was going on. Even the backstage competition scenes- more doorways, more open space, more opportunities for being overheard and infiltrated by outsiders. Gave us a chance to see that JK Simmons‘s character knew how to show a bit of restraint but didn’t care all that much what others thought or did about his behavior.
I’m not usually one to guess endings accurately. Things felt like they were building to a There Will Be Blood style explosion (GIGANTIC SPOILER ALERT FOR THERE WILL BE BLOOD) and any time you evoke that movie, you won because it’s in my top five favorites. But I did have some predictions halfway through Whiplash. Happily, they were half met and half exceeded. The final scene was nuanced and complicated and surprising and just right. I look forward to seeing what Oscar night brings for this film and its stars, although I do not foresee JK Simmons winning Best Actor.