Saturday, March 28, 2015

Review and Ending Explanation: Whiplash (2014)

Copyright: Sony Pictures Classics
Amazed by this film from the first moments, I quickly realized that Whiplash movie is neither about J.K. Simmon’s great acting nor the drama that occurs between his character and the pupil character played by Miles Teller. Instead, Whiplash is about the consuming power of music and the need music plants in those who hear its calling the strongest.

Damien Chazelle, a newcomer to the directorial role, made this film in a very bold way. It includes a lot of jazz, but not in a way that will be interesting to those who think they love this music genre, but prefer to listen to it while they meet friends for a drink in a local classy bar. Instead, Chazelle focuses on the hard mechanics of music seen through the eyes of the students in a Shaffer Conservatory in New York.

There, a student named Andrew wants to become the best drummer in the world. A teacher named Fletcher, played brilliantly by J. K. Simmons, runs a studio band and Andrew is soon desperate to become its primary drummer. But Fletcher method resides on torture, humiliation and mocking his band members.

As a story, Whiplash emits a strong, frantic energy which is both foreign in nature and clear in its drive. I bet that few people know what it is like to be an aspiring student of jazz music, but in the film, Andrew’s desire to become one of the great ones is clear as a mountain stream in the moonlight. Like the acting of Simmons and Teller (who plays Andrew), Whiplash is intense and continuously building its own pressure, leading to an eruption. Simmons already received much praise for his work, but for me, Damien Chazelle should also be congratulated for writing and directing this marvel of cinema.

Whiplash shows us that music is not always beautiful and is often dirty and bloody, but that all of this does not matter if it can deliver that single pinnacle moment of being totally immersed in it. There, greatness is found in all its pain and glory.

Whiplash Ending Explanation

Spoiler Alert

Although this film is really straightforward, Whiplash ending might seem ambiguous. The movie ends with Andrew finishing his grueling solo, with Fletcher looking at him. At the last moment, it is shown that Fletcher gives him only the slightest smile and a weak nod, but their meaning is clear – Andrew did what was expected of him and grew into something that no one could have predicted. He managed to surpass himself and grew through pain and misery into a great player. Fletcher was there only to witness it, as the Whiplash ending suggests and feel moved by it, but the entire notion is at that point, out of his hands.

His role, as Fletcher sees it, was to stage the environment where a new music legend could be born. With his invitation in the bar (after they are both kicked out Shaffer’s), he continued to provide this environment and did not know that Andrew would prevail. He just knew that a brilliant musician has to prevail in those circumstances, which is the reason he is not mad or sad when Andrew finds a way out of his embarrassing moment. Fletcher’s motive was never to humiliate him and get back at him for getting him fired, although he would be fine with the possibility of Andrew walking out of the concert and music altogether. Through Andrew, the notion of grooming a legend came true and in the final last moment, we see Fletcher realizing his life goal is accomplished.