Monday, October 6, 2014


By D.E.Levine

J.K.Simmons has been around for 40+ years.  He's a familiar face on the small and big screen. Generally, he's the good guy  -- the police captain, the genial dad, the comical insurance salesman or in his many voice over roles, even an M&M candy.  And, he generally is dressed in a suit or a uniform for his role.

Whiplash is a departure and for Simmons it is probably the best role of his life.  Dressed in a black tee shirt and exhibiting a muscular physique we never knew he had, Simmons plays Terence Fletcher, an intimidating and somewhat masochistic music instructor at a top music conservatory.

Intimidating when he faces students on a one-to-one basis, Fletcher is even more intimidating in front of a conservatory band. Simmons is the protagonist to a young music student, a drummer named Andrew (Miles Teller) who drums his heart out and is driven for success.  Even more amazing than the scenes where he's drumming was the disclosure that Teller never drummed before learning to do so for this movie.

When, as a new student, Andrew catches Fletcher's ear and gets an offer of a seat in the band, he jumps at it and intensifies his practice even more.

Fletcher believes that encouragement breeds complacency and that the two words "good job" are the most harmful.  His approach is to humiliate his students and band members publicly.  His constant verbal abuse does result in keeping band members on their toes but also creates in Andrew the painful decision to cut himself off from others including the girl he's started a relationship with, in order to concentrate on his music.

There is obvious adversity between teacher and student, but there is also contention and adversity between the student and his innermost self.

Fast paced and somewhat exhausting, Whiplash, for a small film, makes a big noise.