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MOVIES - Whiplash - Sundance 2014 - Review

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I walked out to the theater at Sundance after viewing Whiplash emotionally and physically exhausted. This 2013 short, now turned into a feature length film by director/screen writer Damien Chazelle, brings to light the world of competition and what sacrifices are made in the search for greatness. Set to the tune of pounding jazz percussion, Whiplash is a story of what happens when a dream and a goal turn into an obsession.

Andrew, played by Miles Teller (who did the majority of his own drumming in this film) is a student at a prestigious music conservatory, the best in the nation. He soon catches the eye and ear of the mythic Terence Fletcher, played with bone-chilling bravado by J.K Simmons, one of the most ruthless instructors at the school. Under Fletcher's tutelage, Andrew struggles with the physical and psychological abuse that serves as "teaching method". As this student / teacher relationship picks up tempo, the true price of perfection is explored.

Whiplash will give you whiplash. The tension that builds every time J.K. Simmons is on screen can be felt physically by the viewer. The character of Terence Fletcher is wound as tight as a snare drum, threatening to snap at any moment and take out anyone around him. When things are calm, the viewer is just waiting for the other drumstick to drop, to see what psychological damage will be inflicted next.

The jazz music is incredible. Each moment Miles Teller is on screen practicing or battling against his instructor from behind the drum kit, the music produced provides a soundtrack to highlight the rage, desperation, success, and failure of the student. As you watch the character of Andrew play, you can't help but tap along with the rhythm, feeling his frustrations as the drum hits echo and repeat over and over again.

This is a film that showcases what pressure and the need for perfection can do when lines are crossed. It examines whether the damage incurred on the journey is worth the goal achieved. Whiplash questions whether pushing a student beyond his breaking point in order to help him realize his potential is revolutionary teaching or sadistic torture. It asks what the price of approval is, from one's teacher, oneself, and even the world.

I strongly recommend this movie to everyone. Whiplash is more of a thriller than a musical, a breakneck aural slap in the face that will leave you breathless long after the last cymbal has crashed.

About the Author – Ashley B
Ashley is as serious as a sleeping curse when she says television is her life. Professional event planner, avid movie viewer, convention enthusiast, and resident sass master, Ashley writes reviews for ABC's Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and Galavant, as well as Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. She looks forward each week to the weird and wonderful world her favorite television programs provide.
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