Whiplash (2014)

Movie


Whiplash (2014)

Nineteen year old Andrew Niemann wants to be the greatest jazz drummer in the world, in a league with Buddy Rich. This goal is despite not coming from a pedigree of greatest, musical or otherwise, with Jim, his high school teacher father, being a failed writer. Andrew is starting his first year at Shaffer Conservatory of Music, the best music school in the United States. At Shaffer, being the best means being accepted to study under Terence Fletcher and being asked to play in his studio band, which represents the school at jazz competitions. Based on their less than positive first meeting, Andrew is surprised that Fletcher asks him to join the band, albeit in the alternate drummer position which he is more than happy to do initially. Andrew quickly learns that Fletcher operates on fear and intimidation, never settling for what he considers less than the best each and every time. Being the best in Fletcher's mind does not only entail playing well, but knowing that you're playing well ...
USA
IMDb   8.5 /10
Metacritic   88 %
TheMovieDb    8.4 /10
RottenTomatoes
FilmAffinity   7.8 /10
Information
Release Date2014-10-15
Runtime1h 46mins
GenreDrama, Music
Content RatingR (R)
AwardsTop Rated Movies #44 | Won 3 Oscars. Another 93 wins & 144 nominations.
CompanyBold Films, Blumhouse Productions, Right of Way Films
CountryUSA
LanguageEnglish

Whiplash (2014 film)

Whiplash is a 2014 American psychological drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle. It depicts the relationship between an ambitious jazz drummer (Miles Teller) and an abusive perfectionist bandleader (J. K. Simmons) at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory. Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist co-star.

After Chazelle completed the script of Whiplash, Right of Way Films and Blumhouse Productions helped him turn 15 pages of the script into an 18-minute short film. The short film received acclaim after debuting at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, which attracted investors to produce the complete version of the script.

Whiplash premiered in competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 16, 2014, as the festival's opening film; it won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize for drama. Sony Pictures acquired the worldwide distribution rights, releasing the film under its Sony Pictures Classics and Stage 6 Films banners for its North American and international releases respectively. The film opened in limited release domestically in the United States and Canada on October 10, 2014, gradually expanding to over 500 screens and finally closing on March 26, 2015. The film grossed $49 million on a production budget of $3.3 million.

The film received critical acclaim, and at the 87th Academy Awards, Whiplash won Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Supporting Actor for Simmons, and was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.


Plot

Andrew Neiman is a first-year student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York City. He has been playing drums from a young age and aspires to become a world-class drummer like Buddy Rich. Terence Fletcher, conductor and bandleader of Shaffer Conservatory Studio Band, invites him into the ensemble as alternate for core drummer Carl Tanner. However, Andrew quickly discovers that Fletcher is relentlessly strict, ruthless and abusive to his students. When the band rehearses the Hank Levy piece "Whiplash" and Andrew struggles to keep the tempo, Fletcher hurls a chair at him, slaps him multiple times and berates him in front of the ensemble.

In a jazz competition, after their first set, Andrew misplaces Tanner's sheet music. When called for their second set, Tanner cannot play without his sheets, but Andrew claims he can perform "Whiplash" from memory. After a successful performance, Fletcher promotes Andrew to core drummer for the Studio Band, but he also recruits Ryan Connolly, the core drummer from a lower-level ensemble within the conservatory. Andrew believes Connolly is a less talented drummer than he and is infuriated when Fletcher promotes Connolly to core. Determined to impress Fletcher, Andrew breaks up with his girlfriend, Nicole, to focus on his musical ambitions, and practices until his hands bleed. After a five-hour session with Tanner and Connolly for the core spot, in which Fletcher hurls objects and screams at them, Andrew finally earns back the core spot.

On the way to their next competition, the bus Andrew is riding breaks down. He rents a car but arrives late and realizes he left his drumsticks at the rental office. After convincing an impatient Fletcher to wait for him, Andrew races back and retrieves them, but his car is hit by a truck on the way back. He crawls from the wreckage and runs back to the theater, arriving just as the ensemble enters stage. Bloody and injured, Andrew struggles to play "Caravan," in which Fletcher halts the performance and dismisses Andrew, who then attacks him on stage, resulting in his expulsion from Shaffer.

At his father's request, Andrew meets a lawyer representing the parents of Sean Casey, a former student of Fletcher, in an ethics complaint against Shaffer. Contrary to Fletcher's prior claim that Sean died in a car accident, the lawyer explains that Sean hanged himself out of depression and anxiety spurred on by Fletcher's abuse. Sean's parents want to see Fletcher forbidden from teaching again; Andrew agrees to testify as an anonymous witness, and Fletcher is fired.

Following his expulsion, Andrew has abandoned drumming and is working in a restaurant. He later discovers Fletcher performing as a pianist at a jazz club. Fletcher spots Andrew and invites him for a drink. Fletcher explains his dismissal from Shaffer and admits that his teaching methods were harsh, but he only wanted his students to push themselves to become their absolute best, referencing Charlie Parker's success story as an example. When Andrew asks if his methods would instead discourage students, Fletcher replies that the next Charlie Parker would never be discouraged. Fletcher invites Andrew to perform with his band at the JVC Jazz Festival, as they would be playing the songs Andrew was confident in from their time at Shaffer, and Andrew accepts. Andrew invites Nicole to the performance, but she declines as she is in a new relationship.

Andrew arrives at JVC and the band goes onstage. Just before they begin their first piece, Fletcher reveals that he knows Andrew testified against him and, as revenge, leads the band with a song Andrew does not know and has not been given the sheet music for. Andrew walks off stage humiliated, but then returns to the stage and cuts off Fletcher's introduction to their next piece by playing "Caravan," cueing in the band himself. Fletcher is taken aback but resumes conducting. After Fletcher cues to the last beat of the piece, Andrew continues playing, performing an extended solo. After a moment of disbelief, Fletcher nods in approval of Andrew's performance before cueing the band finale.


Cast

  • Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman, an ambitious young jazz drummer at Shaffer
  • J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher, a ruthless jazz instructor at Shaffer
  • Paul Reiser as Jim Neiman, Andrew's father, a high school teacher
  • Melissa Benoist as Nicole, a movie theater employee
  • Austin Stowell as Ryan Connolly, another drummer in Fletcher's band
  • Nate Lang as Carl Tanner, another drummer in Fletcher's band
  • Chris Mulkey as Uncle Frank, Andrew's uncle
  • Damon Gupton as Mr. Kramer
  • Suanne Spoke as Aunt Emma, Andrew's aunt
  • Jayson Blair as Travis, Andrew's cousin
  • Charlie Ian as Dustin, Andrew's cousin
  • Henry G. Sanders as Red Henderson

Production

While attending Princeton High School, writer-director Damien Chazelle was in a "very competitive" jazz band and drew on the dread he felt in those years. He based the conductor, Terence Fletcher, on his former band instructor (who died in 2003) but "pushed it further," adding elements of Buddy Rich and other band leaders known for their harsh treatment. Chazelle said he wrote the film "initially in frustration" while trying to get his musical La La Land off the ground.

Right of Way Films and Blumhouse Productions helped Chazelle turn 15 pages of his original screenplay into a short film starring Johnny Simmons as Neiman and J. K. Simmons (no relation) as Fletcher. The 18-minute short film received acclaim after debuting at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, winning the short film Jury Award for fiction, which attracted investors to produce the complete version of the script. The feature-length film was financed for $3.3 million by Bold Films.

In August 2013, Miles Teller signed on to star in the role originated by Johnny Simmons; J. K. Simmons remained attached to his original role. Early on, Chazelle gave J. K. Simmons direction that "I want you to take it past what you think the normal limit would be," telling him: "I don't want to see a human being on-screen any more. I want to see a monster, a gargoyle, an animal." Many of the band members were real musicians or music students, and Chazelle tried to capture their expressions of fear and anxiety when they were pressed by Simmons. Chazelle said that between takes, Simmons was "as sweet as can be," which he credits for keeping "the shoot from being nightmarish."

Principal photography began in September 2013, with filming taking place throughout Los Angeles, including the Hotel Barclay, Palace Theater, and the Orpheum Theatre, with a few exterior shots filmed in New York City to create the setting. The film was shot in 19 days, with a schedule of 14 hours of filming per day. Chazelle was involved in a serious car accident in the third week of shooting and was hospitalized with possible concussion, but he returned to set the next day to finish the film on time.


Music

Whiplash (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedOctober 7, 2014
GenreJazz
Length54:43
LabelVarèse Sarabande

The soundtrack album was released on October 7, 2014, via Varèse Sarabande label. The soundtrack consists of 24 tracks divided in three different parts: original jazz pieces written for the film, original underscore parts written for the film, and classic jazz standards written by Stan Getz, Duke Ellington, and other musicians. The actual drummer was Bernie Dresel.

On March 27, 2020, an expanded deluxe edition was released on double CD and 2-LP gatefold sleeve vinyl with new cover art, and featured original music by Justin Hurwitz, plus bonus track and remixes by Timo Garcia, Opiuo, Murray A. Lightburn and more.

Track listing

I Want to Be One of the Greats

If You Want the Part, Earn It

He Was a Beautiful Player


Reception

Box office

In North America, the film opened in a limited release on October 10, 2014, in 6 theaters, grossing $135,388 ($22,565 per theater) and finishing 34th at the box office. It expanded to 88 locations, then 419 locations. After three months on release it had earned $7 million, and finally expanded nationwide to 1000 locations to capitalize on receiving five Academy Awards nominations. Whiplash grossed $13.1 million in the U.S. and Canada and $35.9 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $49 million against a budget of $3.3 million.

Critical response

On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes the film has a score of 94% based on 298 reviews, with a average rating of 8.60/10. The site's critical consensus states, "Intense, inspiring, and well-acted, Whiplash is a brilliant sophomore effort from director Damien Chazelle and a riveting vehicle for stars J. K. Simmons and Miles Teller." On Metacritic the film has a score of 88 out of 100, based on reviews from 49 critics, indicating "universal acclaim." Simmons received wide praise for his performance and won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Peter Debruge, in his review for Variety, said that the film "demolishes the cliches of the musical-prodigy genre, investing the traditionally polite stages and rehearsal studios of a topnotch conservatory with all the psychological intensity of a battlefield or sports arena." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised the performances of Teller and Simmons, writing: "Teller, who greatly impressed in last year's Sundance entry The Spectacular Now, does so again in a performance that is more often simmering than volatile ... Simmons has the great good fortune for a character actor to have here found a co-lead part he can really run with, which is what he excitingly does with a man who is profane, way out of bounds and, like many a good villain, utterly compelling." Whiplash also won the 87th Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing and the 87th Academy Award for Best Film Editing.

Amber Wilkinson of The Daily Telegraph praised the direction and editing, writing: "Chazelle's film has a sharp and gripping rhythm, with shots, beautifully edited by Tom Cross... often cutting to the crash of Andrew's drums." James Rocchi of Indiewire gave a positive review and said, "Whiplash is ... full of bravado and swagger, uncompromising where it needs to be, informed by great performances and patient with both its characters and the things that matter to them." Henry Barnes of The Guardian gave the film a positive review, calling it a rare film "about music that professes its love for the music and its characters equally."

Forrest Wickman of Slate said the film distorted jazz history and promoted a misleading idea of genius, adding that "In all likelihood, Fletcher isn’t making a Charlie Parker. He’s making the kind of musician that would throw a cymbal at him". In The New Yorker, Richard Brody said "Whiplash honors neither jazz nor cinema." Jazz bassist Adam Neely said the film presented an inaccurate depiction of modern music education, as well as the tastes, attitudes, and subculture of actual jazz musicians.

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics end of year lists. Metacritic collected lists published by major film critics and publications, and in their analyiss recorded that Whiplash appeared on 57 lists and in 1st place on 5 of those lists. Overall the film was ranked in 5th place overall for the year.

  • 1st – William Bibbiani, CraveOnline
  • 1st – Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
  • 1st – Erik Davis, Movies.com
  • 2nd – A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club
  • 2nd – Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter
  • 2nd – Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly
  • 3rd – Tasha Robinson, The Dissolve
  • 3rd – Amy Taubin, Artforum
  • 3rd – Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times
  • 3rd – Matt Singer, ScreenCrush
  • 3rd – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects
  • 4th – Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club
  • 4th – Kyle Smith, New York Post
  • 4th – Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle
  • 4th – Brian Miller, Seattle Weekly
  • 4th – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
  • 4th – David Edelstein, Vulture
  • 5th – Ty Burr, The Boston Globe
  • 5th – Genevieve Koski, The Dissolve
  • 5th – James Berardinelli, Reelviews
  • 5th – David Ansen, The Village Voice
  • 5th – Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times (tied with Foxcatcher)
  • 6th – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
  • 6th – Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
  • 6th – Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News
  • 7th – Jesse Hassenger, The A.V. Club
  • 7th – Rex Reed, New York Observer
  • 7th – Noel Murray, The Dissolve
  • 7th – Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press
  • 7th – Wesley Morris, Grantland
  • 7th – Alison Willmore, BuzzFeed
  • 8th – Keith Phipps, The Dissolve
  • 8th – Mike Scott, The Times-Picayune
  • 8th – Rafer Guzman, Newsday
  • 8th – Seth Malvín Romero, A.V. Wire
  • 8th – Ben Kenigsberg, The A.V. Club
  • 8th – Barbara Vancheri, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • 8th – Kristopher Tapley, Hitfix
  • 8th – Matthew Jacobs and Christopher Rosen, Huffington Post
  • 9th – Nathan Rabin, The Dissolve
  • 10th – Clayton Davis, Awards Circuit
  • 10th – Owen Gleiberman, BBC
  • Top 10 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) – Claudia Puig, USA Today
  • Top 10 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) – Stephen Whitty, The Star-Ledger

Accolades

The film received the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival; Chazelle's short film of the same name took home the jury award in the U.S. fiction category one year prior. The film also took the grand prize and the audience award for favorite film at the 40th Deauville American Film Festival.

Whiplash was originally planned to compete for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, but on January 6, 2015, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced that the film would instead be competing in the Adapted Screenplay category to the surprise of many, including Chazelle. Although the Writers Guild of America categorized the screenplay as original, AMPAS classed it as an adaptation of the 2013 short version.

At the 87th Academy Awards, J. K. Simmons received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance, Tom Cross won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing and Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley won the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing. In December 2015, the score received a Grammy nomination, and the film was nominated for the NME Award for Best Film.