I enjoyed watching Whiplash over the weekend. This is a movie that will take you up to the edge and over the waterfall, if you know what I mean. While I enjoyed watching it more than I enjoyed Birdman, I think Birdman will have the edge during awards season. Here’s why: Whiplash takes a close look at just a few ideas, whereas (despite my criticisms of the film) Birdman takes a nuanced look at a lot of ideas and characters.
Still, Whiplash is a joy to watch. Some say the movie is about teaching method, but I think the movie is about the music, talent, and art overcoming the process. And, this is evidenced in the way the film ends–paying homage to the music. The audience loses sight of the drama and the personal dynamics as the final performance plays out. And I loved that.
I also really loved the relationship that Miles Teller’s character Andrew had with his father Paul Reiser. It was a minor aspect of the movie, but this was a highlight of the film for me. If the film had followed a more predictable narrative, the relationship between father and son would’ve been strained. The father would have either pushed the son too hard, or would have disapproved of the son’s pursuits all together. Instead, the film portrays a gentle, loving, and supportive relationship between father and son, and it results in a tenderness that I would love to see more of between two men on screen.
There are a few really predictable aspects of the film, the most noteworthy being that Andrew very predictably sabotages his personal relationships for the sake of his success.
There are a few uncharacteristic scenes as well. The character Andrew is a strong combination of deeply insecure, appearing to second guess himself at every turn, coupled with brief explosions of self-assuredness that are usually at the expense of this peers.
There is an amusing scene where Andrew is having dinner with his father and extended family. It is clear that the family does not really understand or value what Andrew is doing, and Andrew broods silently before schooling them all. It’s amusing, but isn’t really indicative of the character throughout the rest of the film.
Overall, I think the film might’ve been more powerful if Andrew was more aggressive, funny, fast-talking, and confident throughout the film, and only the teacher, Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons, was able to destroy that confidence. Anyway, it would’ve given Fletcher’s character more convincing power throughout.
Despite all that, I enjoyed the film, the music, watching the process. The whole thing inspired me to practice piano. Maybe that’s all.