Cast Lends Dramatic Punch to Whiplash


Clark Sacktor, Columnist

Whiplash may not be a thriller, but the movie contains moments more terrifying than any horror film released this year. Despite the lack of buzz over Damien Chazelle’s dramatic jazz flick Whiplash, the movie is a standout in the 2014 Oscar lineup. Miles Teller plays Andrew, a first-year student at the fictional New York conservatory Shaffer, studying drums under Terence Fletcher, a cutthroat professor played by J.K. Simmons. The stirring chemistry between this duo adds a dramatic punch to an already solid production.

During Andrew’s first ensemble class, Fletcher publicly shames a student playing out of tune. This instance raises the stakes for the moment when Andrew plays for Fletcher for the first time. After interrupting Andrew’s solo with a calm yet snarky “not quite my tempo,” Fletcher delivers a response to the excerpt worth the price of admission alone.

Although Fletcher’s character may initially appear flat, his emotional hardness is eventually dispelled. Simmons embodies the multifaceted role of Fletcher and fully deserves an Oscar for best supporting role.

Andrew’s struggle to meet Fletcher’s expectations serves as the driving force of the film. We see Andrew literally sweat and bleed for his professor’s approval and the opportunity to join the ranks of the legendary jazz drummer Buddy Rich. Willing to do whatever it takes to achieve this dream, Andrew sacrifices any resemblance of a personal life. The audience witnesses his journey to become a successful musician in the hyper-competitive world of professional jazz. At 27 years old, Teller proves himself to be of the most capable actors of his generation. If this performance is any indication, Teller has the potential to become a major star. Few have been able to display desperation and drive as effortlessly as Teller does in this role.

Chazelle, himself a former jazz musician, uses rapidly moving cinematography that mimics the rigor of the music featured onscreen. Music is given priority within the film and the director’s passion for jazz is apparent. The lack of nominations awarded to Whiplash is an inaccurate representation of Chazelle’s passionate and impressive filmmaking. See this film not only for compelling characters but to experience the most satisfying onscreen drama of the season.