‘Whiplash’ – An Artist’s Obsession

by Nathan Braised

After watching a performance in my Music Appreciation class, I was immediately prompted to rewatch one of my favorite movies ever: “Whiplash,” a 2014 Damien Chazelle film about a dedicated musician, and the obstacles he faces on his way to fame. 

In Music Appreciation last week, Professor Frederick let the class experience a throwback video of him covering an incredibly difficult Buddy Rich solo verbatim. An experience is the best way to describe it; it was an excellent display of instrumental mastery that could leave most musicians in awe. 

With that being said, this one’s for you Professor Frederick!

Andrew Neiman is a talented jazz drummer enrolled at the fictitious Shaffer Conservatory of Music, which is the most prestigious music school in the country. Andrew is practicing late one night when he is walked in on by Terrence Fletcher, who conducts the most renowned band at the school, and therefore also the country. 

Andrew struggles to perform in this impromptu tryout, so much so that Fletcher walks out on him. Despite being discouraged, Andrew knows what techniques Fletcher is looking for and gets to work on perfecting them. 

After long days in class and excruciating practices at night, Andrew gets a second chance. Fletcher comes in during Andrew’s class and asks to see the same techniques as last time. Andrew nails them and Fletcher invites him to join his ensemble. 

When practice commences, the audience begins to see how abusive and manipulative Fletcher is to his students. 

Disclaimer: there is a monstrous amount of swearing from this part on in the movie, but it’s meant to build Fletcher’s character and show just how ruthless he can be to mold better musicians. 

Andrew hops on the kit and is immediately placed in Fletcher’s crosshairs in one of the most intense scenes I have ever watched: a 10-minute array of verbal abuse hurled at Andrew, bringing him to tears.But despite the embarrassment and humiliation, he refuses to quit and intensifies his practice even further. 

It’s competition time, but Andrew is listed as an alternate. When the core drummer sticks Andrew with his folder containing the music charts, he sets it down for a split second, and it’s gone. 

The movie doesn’t explain where it went, but it’s a lucky break for Andrew since the core drummer can’t play without the charts, and he can. 

The show goes well, but now it’s time for the next one, in which Andrew gets into a car crash while running late to the show, and sprints to get there on time. 

Fletcher actually lets him take the stage, but his injuries overwhelm him, and he passes out. Fletcher tells Andrew that he’s cut, and Andrew attacks him on stage in a fit of rage. 

The act gets Andrew kicked out of Shaffer. Weeks later, a lawyer asks Andrew to anonymously testify against Fletcher in order to get him fired. Fletcher’s previous students have also reported counts of abuse, and Andrew’s case could close the case. He agrees to testify. 

More time passes and Andrew is walking down the street one night when he hears sounds coming from a jazz club. He heads inside to see Fletcher gracefully playing the piano. 

Although he was fired from Shaffer, Fletcher still runs a freelance group, and invites Andrew to join for an upcoming competition. With nothing to lose, Andrew agrees. 

I’ll be honest, the final 10 minutes of this movie is one of the most beautiful works of cinema and music I have ever seen in my entire life.

 There’s no dialogue, just the most intense music ever made, and the screen goes to black on the final note.

This is one of the best movies ever made, and there’s so much to it. 

The pacing is incredible; there is not one second of downtime in the entire film. The theme of an artist’s struggle is so well portrayed. I love the acting done by both Teller and Simmons for their roles of Andrew and Fletcher; their dynamic is unmatched.

 It goes without saying that the music is incredible. The cinematography is fantastic. The plot is great. Every aspect is incredible. 

For most musicians, this is the perfect movie, and I will have to agree.  

RATE 10/10 quite my tempo

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