Capsule Review Drama

TIFF Capsule Review: Whiplash

September 9, 2014Ben MK

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No guts, no glory...

It takes a special kind of drive to pursue one's dreams. And Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller), a first-year student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory of Music in New York City, has got it in spades. Motivated by a singular purpose — to be one of jazz music's greats — he sacrifices his relationships, and even his own well-being, pushing himself to his physical limit trying to perfect his craft. But how far is too far? Under the expert tutelage and intense scrutiny of music teacher Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) — Shaffer's resident maestro and masochist extraordinaire — Andrew will discover the answer.


Based on his award-winning short film, writer/director Damien Chazelle's Whiplash does for jazz music what films like Moneyball have done for sports, distilling the art form to a tale of pure blood, sweat and passion — with an emphasis on the blood and the sweat. For anyone who's ever sacrificed anything to pursue a goal, it's impossible not to identify with Andrew, even if the character takes his commitment to the extreme: practicing his drumming till his hands are raw and bloody, sabotaging his own relationship with his girlfriend (Melissa Benoist) because he anticipates she'll hold him back and even attempting to play after sustaining a seriously injury.

Playing a character who clearly marches to the beat of his own drum and never takes his eye off the prize, Teller gives a laser-focused performance that has the word "breakout" written all over it. But it wouldn't be nearly half as interesting without Simmons, in a role that sometimes seems to exist purely to tear Andrew down every time he's claimed a small victory. Simmons' machine-gun delivery of line after line of sarcastically scathing dialog commands the audience's complete attention every time he strides on-screen, and it's his interplay with Teller that gives the film its mesmerizing rhythm.  Ben Mk

Whiplash receives its Canadian premiere as part of TIFF 2014's Special Presentations programme and is currently scheduled for an October 2014 release by Mongrel Media. Photo credit: Mongrel Media.

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