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Trivia / Goofs
Summary / Analysis
Times of India
Jazz drummer Andrew (Teller) has tremendous potential and ability. Painfully shy, he lets his drums to the talking. What he craves is that elusive nod of approval from his brutal jazz instructor, Fletcher (Simmons). Easier said than done, as Andrew realizes that Fletcher is a sadistic nightmare of a teacher.
Whiplash explodes on screen like a well-timed artillery barrage. We're introduced to the two characters in this movie that really matter in the opening scene itself. Illuminated by an overhead light, Andrew is seen practicing in an otherwise dark room at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory of Music. He picks up the tempo on the snare, gradually accelerating to a machine-gun frenzy until Fletcher walks in and Andrew abruptly halts. Their tenuous student-teacher equation begins here.
A devoted Buddy Rich fan with stellar ambitions, Andrew is relentless like no drummer Fletcher has ever taught and the bullet-headed Fletcher is distinctly evocative of Full Metal Jacket's foul-mouthed, bullying and merciless drill instructor, Sergeant Hartman. Fletcher eschews jazz improvisation for impossibly strict cadences and tempos. And when he asks the band to meet for practice at 9 am, he will enter the room at that very second. Andrew is no slouch in the determination department - he dumps his sweet girlfriend (Benoist) to focus on playing and play he does, till his hands bleed.
Hank Levy's Whiplash is used by Fletcher with an obsession bordering on derangement; he makes Andrew repeat a five-second, random phrase from the piece, each time expecting him to get the right tempo. It's never enough, but Fletcher quotes a Charlie "Bird" Parker anecdote as justification for pushing his students beyond the edge.
Some might feel that the depiction of jazz here is too harsh. But then again, Fletcher's approach is about mastering the underpinning forms and structures before a player explores improvisational methods. The taut editing (Tom Cross) is outstanding and Simmons outdoes himself. When the thumping tom-toms, trombones and tympani fall silent, what you are also left with is a career-topping performance (thus far, at least!) from Miles Teller.
The film was reportedly shot in a mere 10 weeks.
Miles Teller was reportedly trained by Nate Lang, a real-life jazz drummer, who plays Carl in the movie.
Elements of the film are based on the director's own experiences in jazz school.
Chazelle reveals that his experiences influenced his film's thematic questions of how far one should go for greatness and what greatness even means.
A lot of Miles Teller's real drumming was used in the film. He reportedly practiced for several hours a day in preparation.
Levy was also prolific as an arranger of jazz standards, though few of them were published during his lifetime. He was especially fond of the music of the stage as it came through bebop: Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern.
J.K. Simmons suffered two cracked ribs when Miles Teller tackled him during a scene.
While filming the more intense practice scenes, the director would avoid saying, "cut!" so as to keep Miles Teller drumming until he exhausted himself.
Damien Chazelle, the director and writer of the film, could not get funding for the movie, so he turned it into a short film instead. The short film was then sent for the Sundance Film Festival in 2013, which ended up winning the Short Film Jury Award, and he got funding soon after.
For the slapping scene, J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller filmed several takes with Simmons only miming the slap. For the final take, Simmons and Teller decided to film the scene with a real, genuine slap. This is the take that is in the film.
The film is one of the lowest grossing movies ever to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Nothing is shown about Andrew learning sheet music or even how he came to learn it.
Fletcher talks about a cymbal being flung at Charlie Parker's head one day. But in reality, no such thing happened.
A first-year jazz student at the Shaffer Conservatory in New York [said to be the best in the US, a fiction again] Andrew Neiman is a brilliant drummer. He has been playing the skins since he was a small kid and adores the technique of greats like Buddy Rich. Terrence Fletcher is a jazz conductor who is more of a teacher with a uniquely brutal method of 'teaching'. He gives his core drummer a break and asks Andrew to sit in on the drum stool after he hears Andrew play one day. However, Andrew's excitement at playing as part of the core band is quickly cut short when Fletcher hurls a chair at Andrew from across the room during a take of Whiplash, a Hank Levy jazz composition. Fletcher then proceeds to humiliate Andrew for, not keeping his tempo, slapping his face on both sides and asking him if he too slow a player or too fast.
Not to be outdone, Andrew is undaunted and goes back to the practice room to keep at it till his hands bleed. When not practicing, he goes for movies with his dad, for whom Andrew is the most important person in the world. At that same movie theater, he meets Nicole (Benoit) who handles the food stall at the cinema. After a good day of the practice session, he gathers up the courage to ask Nicole out and she accepts. they go out for pizza and coke and the two hit it off. Prior to this, Andrew had managed to impress Fletcher in a big way by performing Whiplash from memory after misplacing the core drummer Carl's (Lang) sheet music. But when Andrew's hopes get high, Fletcher replaces him with his former class member Ryan (Austin Stowell). Andrew, in his dedication to drumming, will break up with Nicole later on.
One day during practice, Fletcher takes a call and is seen as dejected after that. We learn that a fantastic former student of his, Sean Casey, has died in a car accident. They start rehearsing another composition called Caravan. Ryan fails with the tempo and Fletcher asks Andrew to sit in. He too gets the tempo wrong. Carl is then asked to sit in, with the same result. The entire class is asked to keep practicing till they get the song right. It is not until 2 am that they stagger out of the studio, exhausted.
Fletcher tells them to get ready for a jazz competition out of town the very next day and not to be late for it. After Andrew's bus breaks down, he rents a car and arrives late, forgetting his drumsticks in the car rental showroom. He rushes back after a confrontation with Fletcher and retrieves the drumsticks. But in his rush to drive back, his car is hit by a truck on the driver's side. Bleeding and battered, torn and frayed, he crawls from the wreckage and arrives on stage badly injured. Unable to play and dropping his drumsticks, Fletcher tells him he is out of the band.
Enraged, Andrew kicks away the bass drums and lunges for Fletcher in front of the audience, taking him down and repeatedly screaming at Fletcher "I'll kill you!"
Not surprisingly, Andrew is expelled from Shaffer. He loses interest in drumming and takes another job. A lawyer representing the parents of the deceased Sean Casey explains to Andrew and his dad that Sean actually hanged himself and was not killed in a car crash, as Fletcher had lied to the students about earlier. Casey suffered anxiety and depression after joining Fletcher's class. Casey's parents, the lawyer explained, were too poor to pursue charges, but she said that if Andrew agrees to testify, Fletcher will never teach again. He agrees and, as a result, Fletcher is fired.
Some time later, Andrew happens to see Fletcher performing at a jazz club. Fletcher asks Andrew to have a drink with him and Fletcher explains why he pushes his students too much - that it would be a "crime" to deprive the world of the next Charlie Parker, who was also pushed the same way. Apparently when Parker made a mistake on stage, a cymbal was flung at him. Instead of being discouraged, Parker played the solo of his life on the saxophone the next day, which made him who he was.
At the end of the evening, he invites Andrew to perform at a festival concert with his band. Andrew agrees after a bit and telephones Nicole, apologising to her and asking her to come. She tells him she has a new boyfriend and turns him down.
Before the show, Fletcher tells the band that the audience at Carnegie Hall [where they are playing the JVC festival] consists of music bigwigs who can make or break their careers, depending on how they play so they should be flawless. When Andrew takes his seat at the drums, Fletcher tells him that he knows that Andrew had testified. In revenge, Fletcher leads the band in a new piece called Upswinging that Andrew was not given sheet music for. Andrew has no chance in hell of playing along and realization dawns on him that this was Fletcher's revenge - to screw up Andrew's career as well. Andrew leaves the stage humiliated and gets a hug from his dad. But he then returns, takes the chair and crashes into a flawless version of Caravan, insultingly interrupting Fletcher mid-speech. The band joins in and Fletcher has no option but to follow suit. Andrew finishes off with a mind-blowing drum solo and it is this performance that earns Fletcher's nod of approval. Andrew has now 'arrived'.
This year's Oscar nominated film Whiplash has been receiving rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. Starring Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons, this movie is based on director Damien Chazelle's experiences in the Princeton High School Studio Band. Social media is abuzz with audience tweeting their experience watching the film.