Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Whiplash Review

Oh, winter in Chicago. What a bitch you can be. Temperatures hovering below zero, wind chills plummeting to levels that have me searching for a tauntaun to slice open. I always think I will get used to it, that since I deal with it each year my skin will suddenly get thick and I will walk out one morning and laugh in the face of Mother Nature, gusts that previously would have had me seeking shelter whistling by like a whisper.

Yesterday morning I stepped outside, but I did not laugh. I felt those gusts. The only whispers to be heard were the curse words that slipped awkwardly between my chattering teeth. Oh, winter in Chicago. What a bitch you can be.

Tonight I embraced the warmth that was offered to me, a comfortable seat to relax in, a cold drink in my hand as the world outside these walls was being blasted by snow. Live in the now, worry about the weather later. I would wake up tomorrow morning and be forced to face those conditions, but in this moment I could push that to the back of my mind. Some fresh cinema was available to me, the acclaimed breakthrough feature by Damien Chazelle titled Whiplash. The perfect distraction before I faced reality hours from now. The blustery conditions, the ice cold car, the long day of work spent day dreaming of the comfort I feel now.


When the film ended, I told myself it was time to get some sleep. Soft blankets, a perfectly fluffy pillow, and hours of silent bliss were literally feet away from me, the obvious choice to cap off a splendid evening, right? Wrong. I threw on my coat, headed outside and shoveled the entire driveway. The temperature that seemed so daunting felt crisp and refreshing on my skin. Hours earlier I had done everything I could think of to avoid the outside world, and now I cherished it. I didn't laugh at it, I didn't taunt it, I admired it. I felt alive in it.

What the hell am I rambling about? What does this have to do with Whiplash


If I was feeling the fatigue of a Monday, I was wide awake as the electric final few minutes of film wrapped up. The wonderfully frenetic editing that perfectly suited the tone of Whiplash kept me on my toes throughout. The confident, assured direction by a man I had never even heard of dazzled my senses, my eyes darting from side to side, my ears absorbing every word, the hair on my arm standing up like the energy from the screen was somehow seeping out into the air around me. Early on during this movie, I knew I was hooked, with the terrifying performance of J.K. Simmons and the measured and nuanced turn by Miles Teller serving as the icing atop the beautifully crafted cake. By the final act, I had to remind myself to breathe as I was exhilarated by the rhythm and the urge to root for a young man who refuses to give up on his dream regardless of obstacles. I was honestly nervous, as if the outcome of this fictional story would somehow make or break my day.

I had planned to go right to sleep once the credits rolled, but how is that possible? After an ending like that?

With a smile on my face, I stepped outside. Oh, winter in Chicago. What a beauty you can be.



  1. Finally watched this with my wife, who studied music in college. She said that she also experienced everything that Fletcher did (being berated, putting someone of lesser ability in your place to motivate you, and being told to constantly repeat the same measure over and over). While Fletcher's actions may seem to too much, what price are you willing to pay for greatness? His methods worked. They may seem over the top in today's civilian society, but we do this to our military special forces. Andrew wanted greatness and this was the price he was willing to pay.

    1. Bingo Nathan. I had a discussion/debate with someone who only look at Whiplash from a negative perspective, that Andrew had become a "monster" much like Fletcher and the shot near the end of Andrew's father watching him in awe was a look of being "horrified" by what his son had become, and I completely disagree.

      I think Whiplash is a cautionary tale, but not a stay away this life is filled with misery and you are a terrible person kind, more of Damien Chazelle telling a story that essentially says listen, this is what it takes. You may not like it, it may look like abuse, it may feel wrong, it may seem depressing, but this is the truth. Anyone can be good at something, but if you want to be great, a legend who will be remembered decades after you are gone, this is what it takes. You have to be willing to push aside any romantic interests, you have to be willing to put yourself through hell and be on practically the brink of losing your sanity and if you make it through to the other side, congratulations.

      That shot at the end of the film when the camera does an extreme close up on Fletcher's eyes, when he knows despite everything he has been through with Andrew that it worked, that he found his legend...gives me the chills just thinking about it. A special piece of cinema.