Whiplash - rated - HOT! HOT! HOT!
Baptism of fire

This is the story of a drummer and his struggles to become the best. I found it  utterly compelling. I should disclose the fact that I am a drummer too, still learning, practising and trying to become better. So I lived every moment of this film (and drummed most of it as well!).

But the wider story of this film is the question of excellence, of genius. What does it take to become a top artist? What does it matter whether they are a nice person, or have friends, family and the semblance of a "normal" life? But what happens if they fail? What if there is nothing left? Is this the risk you must take?

And what is the role of a teacher?  Should they "be cruel to be kind"? Or is that just being cruel? Is it better to be brilliant or to be loved?

Particularly these days, with generations X & Y having been told they are brilliant, talented and can do anything: are they tough enought to make it?  Should they be? And what is "making it" anyway?

All these arguments are made and countered in Whiplash. It's a critique of excellence in a package of a touching "coming of age story" and with a marvellous score to boot.  Not only do we have the delight of listening to some great jazz and big band music, but we also get to see a terrific performance by young Miles Teller (he's 24), who has played drums since he was 15 or 16. He's quite touching, and yet believeable as a young relentless kid.  He took drum lessons  4 hours a day, 3 days a week to "brush up" his drumming style (as did Sal Mineo in The Gene Krupa Story (1959)! Mineo studied for a year with gene Krupa himself). This all sounds like heaven to me!

Then there's JK Simmons, who plays the teacher/ bandleader. I think I've seen a lot of him on TV (Law and Order, for example). I believe the part was written for him by writer/ director Damian Chazelle. According to IMDB, part of the film is based on director/writer Damien Chazelle's experience as a band student in high school. In a Q&A after a screening, Chazelle stated he was intimidated by his band instructor's presence. Chazelle is a bright new talent, on the evidence of Whiplash.

So, in summary, this is a film of ideas, well-executed and intelligently-written, with excellent performances and wonderful music. But best of all is the climax.  It involves a drum performace that is absolutely electrifying!  I was ecstatic and in tears at the same time.  A star is born?  But it's a baptism of fire, that's for sure.