Andrew Neiman wears these chucks throughout the film.
What makes a great artist? Is it the drive? The passion? What happens when that drive and passion are abused and taken to unhealthy, and extreme measures? The 2014 film Whiplash takes a look at the drive and passion in a young artist, and how they can be manipulated, twisted and abused by a truly evil mentor. The film stars Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, and Melissa Benoist. It was written and directed by Damien Chazelle, who says he wrote the film partly in frustration due to being unable to get his musical La La Land off the ground. The film is most remembered for the performance given by Simmons, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the role in 2015.
Neiman arrives at Fletcher’s ensemble practice early….very early.
Andrew Neiman (Teller) is a first-year student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory of Music in New York City. A drum prodigy, and he aspires to become a world-class drummer like his hero Buddy Rich. Terence Fletcher (Simmons), is the esteemed conductor and bandleader of Shaffer Conservatory Studio Jazz Band, which is the band everyone on campus wants to be on. One day while in rehearsal, Neiman’s first year group is surprised by Fletcher who put each student on the spot to see if any are worthy of receiving an invitation in his ensemble. He ends up inviting Neiman as an alternate for core drummer Carl Tanner. However, Fletcher’s true nature soon reveals itself to Andrew. In reality the cool, calm, and intimidating Fletcher is actually a cold, ruthless, and abusive dictator to his students. When the band rehearses the Hank Levy piece “Whiplash” and Andrew falters with the tempo, Fletcher hurls a chair at him, slaps him, and berates him in front of the ensemble.
Neiman jumps out of bed after oversleeping on his first day.
Nevertheless, Neiman stays in the ensemble, knowing that impressing Fletcher could be his way to achieving his dream. This chase for Fletcher’s approval will send Neiman spiraling through a roller coaster of success and failure. He’ll be promoted, demoted, beaten and bleed for Fletcher in what is clearly a toxic relationship. Neiman will sacrifice everything to impress Fletcher and be deemed as good enough to be one of the greats.
Listening to Buddy Rich for inspiration.
This film is masterful, an emotional expression of artistic drive and the psychological effect it has on someone. Simmons portrayal of Fletcher as the band teacher from hell ranks as one of the greatest movie villains of all time, all while being incredibly charismatic and never once seeming like he couldn’t be a real teacher in some prestigious art institution. Teller is no slouch either, as he captures the naivete and spiral of Neiman perfectly and is able to convincingly hang in there with Simmons as he throws chairs and spews venom. Chazelle proves here why he’s going to be a director/writer we talk about for a very long time. He captures the intensity of Fletcher and Neiman’s relationship in such a way it almost makes it seem like they’re engaged in gladiatorial combat rather than jazz band. Whiplash is definitely one of the best films of the last decade, and offers up one of the best bad guy performances of all time.
Neiman takes over as lead drummer in his first year class.
The differences between Neiman and Fletcher is displayed through their wardrobes.
The best chucks scene in the film is coincidentally the best and most famous scene in the film. The scene that can best be called the “Not My Tempo” scene. Neiman has just been invited into Fletcher's jazz band ensemble. After Fletcher calls out another student for being out of tune, tells everyone to take a break and that when they come back, Neiman will be playing drums over the first chair. Neiman begins to worry, and studies in the hall the notes for the piece “Whiplash”. Fletcher comes up to him to offer some encouragement, and here we see how Neiman’s chucks separate him and put him at odds with Fletcher. Neiman is in a loose dress shirt, sloppy slacks, and worn out chucks, while Fletcher is dressed in incredibly tight, and incredibly neat black slacks, shirt, and dress shoes. This shows the differences in their mentalities even before we learn of Fletcher’s true manic nature. Neiman wants to get to Fletcher’s level and impress him because he thinks that that is what it takes to become the musician he wants to be. However, as the movie will show us, this leads him down a dark path that results in Neiman’s life imploding, showing how he stayed true to himself, he could have done just as well without experiencing the trauma. The lines between the two are literally displayed in black and white, and through the use of chucks.
Neiman after the infamous “Not My Tempo” scene, running back to his dorm in his chucks.
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