Of all the screenings that I went to at last years Viennale, “Whiplash” by far got the most cheers and applause. The audience seemed to be in a real frenzy afterwards. Me? I’m afraid I wasn’t quite as taken by it as many others were. It’s a good movie, but I also had some issues with it.
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My main problem with “Whiplash” definitely lies in its ending, and the message it entails. This is one of those movies where a young artist suffers mental and physical abuse from his teacher/idol/whatever, but in the end, it’s all worth it, since he prevails and gives the performance of his life – thus condoning the questionable methods of his mentor. In other words: abuse is good, because without it, you’d never be able to reach your full potential. A message that just really makes me want to puke (for a more eloquent elaboration on why this is wrong on so many levels, read my friends kalafudra’s review). I also thought that some scenes were a little too melodramatic and/or clichéd. This is especially true for the car accident. I also found it rather unbelievable that he would rush to the venue afterwards to actually try to play at the concert. Finally: In my opinion, the final drum solo went on too long. After a while I got the impression that it wasn’t just one for the ages, but actually went on for ages. Less would have been more, at least in my very humble opinion.
Despite those flaws, I liked “Whiplash” quite a bit. The movie has an incredible, sweeping and infectious energy. Apart from the aforementioned abusive teacher-syndrome, I also liked how it dealed with matters of ambition and motivation, and how our life can sometimes be directly influenced by success or failure in our job, our hobby and/or in whatever we perceive to be our calling. How invigorating it is to finally reach a certain goal. What a boost of self-esteem it is. I love how Andrew, after getting admitted to Fletchers class, finally finds the courage to ask the girl at his local movie theatre out – and also, how he pushes her away a couple of weeks later, totally convinced that if he doesn’t leave her now, she’ll end up leaving him sooner or later; not even giving her the chance to prove him wrong. He simply thinks that he knows better. Thus, the movie not only shows the positive sides of ambition and success, but also its potential negative consequences. The acting was great, too, with J.K. Simmons a particular standout – highly deserving of all the praise and awards he already got, and most likely will continue to get until Oscar night finally comes around. He really shines in this role, and makes Fletcher – and the movie – highly entertaining. My favorite part of the movie, however, was how Andrew, being drawn into a trap, prevails and ultimately triumphs over his archnemesis and mentor. Still, I can’t quite get myself to disregard – and forgive – “Whiplash” its dubious connotations.