Drummers are used to being underappreciated by both their peers and by a larger audience. In fact, most drummers see very little return, financial or otherwise, for their lifetime of intense work and dedication. Whiplash, the second feature from writer-director Damien Chazelle, hopes to change this, pushing the drum kit and the drummer to the fore of the story.
On film, drummers have always been underrepresented in comparison to other musicians, featuring primarily as supporting characters, as in This is Spinal Tap and Wayne’s World. For an accurate portrayal, fans of the instrument have instead had to rely on documentaries to fill the void left by the long lasting reluctance by studios to shine a spotlight on the drummer. This is what makes Whiplash such a rare and enjoyable treat.
The film focuses on a young Jazz musician named Andrew Neiman, played by Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now, Divergent), who is studying at the prestigious “Shaffer Conservatory” in New York so as to achieve his ambition of becoming “one of the greats”. Under the tutelage of the unshakeable Terrence Fletcher, portrayed brilliantly by J.K Simmons (Spiderman, Juno), he is forced to push himself to extreme lengths in order to progress in his chosen career, acting often in ways detrimental to his own health and wellbeing.
The main advantages of the film are its lead performances. Simmons and Teller have brilliant on screen chemistry together. Both clearly have a passion for the material and possess the appropriate depth to deal with its difficult themes and subject matter.
Whiplash is an at times overwhelming experience for the viewer. There is a heavy emphasis on blood, sweat and tears throughout the duration of the film, which only serves to heighten the drama and to further embellish the protagonist’s dedication to his selected profession.
In addition, the film’s editing also contributes immensely to its success, complimenting the narrative with its rhythm and timing. Great lengths have been taken to ensure the film’s form is an extension of its subject matter. This attention to detail is admirable, and guaranteed to be enjoyed by those who are willing to take heed of it.
Whiplash is a film that has been long awaited by cinemagoers. Hopefully, it will serve as inspiration to future filmmakers to pay respect to the drummer, and ensure they are given the credit that they so rightfully deserve.
Written By: Jack Yarwood