Whiplash is quite simply the best film on music that I’ve seen since School of Rock.
I started liking it within the first two minutes. The opening is a long shot and long take of lead actor Miles Teller on the drums, and you can see that he’s actually playing at a very high level of skill; not a stunt double or editing trickery. Then J K Simmons, faculty at the Shaffer Conservatory where it’s set, walks in. I have been a big fan of J K Simmons since the Coen brothers’ The Ladykillers, but he’s most famous as J Jonah Jameson in the Sam Raimi Spiderman films. I agree with pretty much everyone’s prediction that he is the absolute frontrunner for this year’s supporting actor Oscar for his superlative performance as the foul-mouthed, slave-driving music teacher in Whiplash.
Most developed film industries maintain authenticity by having actors who can actually play and sing in musical films. Miles Teller has been playing drums since the age of 15 and put in loads of extra practice to play the complex pieces in the film.
Whiplash will be enjoyed by everyone – thinking back, I realize we laughed a lot even though no one was ever trying to be funny – but it’s a must, must watch for anyone who has ever learnt music to any level of depth. There’s sheet music, complex time signatures, “Take it from bar 117, reeds and soloists…5, 6…”, insane drum solos, beautifully shot jazz instruments, “Are you rushing or are you dragging!”, “Either you’re out of tune and sabotaging my band, or you don’t know you’re out of tune, which is even worse” and a load of moments that any musician would thoroughly relish.
Whiplash is also about the obsessive pursuit of greatness. As J K Simmons says, “The are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘Good job.'”
(Kenny Basumatary is the Director of the Assamese Martial Arts Comedy Local Kung Fu and the writer of Chocolate_Guitar_Momos)