Whiplash (2014) by Damien Chazelle
Andrew Neyman is a promising young drummer who enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by Terence Fletcher, a perfectionist music conductor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential talent.
The story itself (talented kid in Fame-like setting striving for greatness and being pushed too hard by a bullying mentor) has real potential for irksomeness – the sweet clueless dad (played by Paul Reiser) for instance is such a contrived cliché. The extreme behaviour of J.K. Simmons' character does come across as pastichy and gimmicky. That said, Simmons injects so much (needed) charisma into the role that I totally bought the part. Apart from Simmons, a few other things elevate the film to a thoroughly entertaining and engaging ride: Miles Teller as the gifted drummer is pitch perfect (from sweet and nerdy with occasional bouts of Social Network-y nasty arrogance, to special-needs focus and determination, to full-on explosive rage – the kid is showing amazing range and is fantastic in all registers) and has great chemistry with Simmons + the narrative might be unoriginal but it unfolds seamlessly and I have a soft spot for those type of stories + the drumming is visually and musically awesome (the final number is fab fab fab).
Sidenote: It’s become a ritual now: whenever I’m in Paris or New York, I make a point to catch a film that will not be released in the UK for a while – sadly, there’s always plenty to choose from. This one has been on my radar screen since January 2014 (Sundance) and it will only hit UK screens on 15 January 2015… Living in the UK can be a real drag sometimes.
[Seen @ Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, NYC, Wednesday 15 October 2014]