Whiplash is an intense movie that explores the extremes of passion and obsession.
Andrew (Miles Teller) is a student at an elite jazz conservatory. His ambition to excel at the drums rules his life. When conductor Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) taps him as an alternate for his band, Andrew is subjected to the man’s brutal teaching techniques as Fletcher tries to force the best from his students.
Both student and teacher are ruled by obsession in this film. The student who is willing to do anything not just to succeed, but to be at the peak of his calling. The teacher who sees it as his duty to use trial-by-fire to achieve his own magnum opus, the creation of a brilliant musician.
J.K. Simmons brings the terrifying, mercurial character of Fletcher to life. Fletcher uses a testosterone-driven, fear-oriented form of teaching reminiscent of yell-in-your-face coaches, but with a note of manipulative brilliance as he uses psychological warfare on his gifted students.
Other than Simmons and Teller, the rest of the cast play peripheral roles, suited to a movie where the main characters are the only people who matter to themselves. And there are very few women in this movie. In Fletcher’s own personal studio band, there were no women at all that I noticed. Women are not welcome in Fletcher’s world.
Directed by Damien Chazelle, this movie has received five Oscar nominations. J.K. Simmons has been recognized as best supporting actor at the Golden Globes and by several other organizations. Here’s a link to the IMDb page.
In short, I thought Whiplash was a riveting movie. As a character study and an exploration of the line between obsession and insanity, it succeeds very well.