“There are no two words in the English language more harmful,” J.K. Simmons tells us, “than ‘good job’.” Spoken with such uninhibited truthfulness, the mantra of Terrence Fletcher, an eccentric, hot-headed conductor with a stringent desire for perfection, has the capacity to convince us he’s right. While many of Terrence’s methods in gaining said perfection don’t so much border the line as flat-out cross it (picture throwing a chair at a drummer for missing tempo), we can’t help but hear at least a morsel of reason in his idea that if no-one was ever pushed to be great, no-one would be great. And that’s where Whiplash, writer/director Damien Chazelle’s extraordinary story of drumming and determination based on his own short film, earns its colours: the audience’s continuing conflicting loyalty as we follow two obstinate, erratic characters. We don’t know whether to love or hate, to laugh or cry, and it’s searingly compelling.
Essentially following something of a boxing movie formula, the film finds Andrew (Teller), a promising young drummer with a steely determination to be the best the world has ever seen, working his way up from the bottom after being spotted and trained by a seasoned veteran – enter Terrence Fletcher (Simmons). We can’t help but be reminded of something like Rocky as the young and determined talent is put through stringent work-shopping by the unbridled old trainer searching for the next sensation – in this case, jazz legend Buddy Rich – coupled with sweaty training sequences with visceral, bloody dilutions. Expectedly, of course, the way in which Whiplash develops that formula differs completely from Rocky going the distance, not least through how Terrence and Andrew’s relationship develops. What begins as precarious doesn’t take long to turn completely fractious as tempers rise and two large egos lock horns, and really, the whole film becomes a showcase for two dynamic, subversive and completely electrifying performances…
And don’t forget about that tremendous in-studio discussion on the Top 5, to be relived in the video below:
No Avengers: Age of Ultron. Controversial.
What are your favourite films of the year so far? Let us know in the comments section below.