Drum Roll Please… – Whiplash Review

[Image credit: IMDB]

Whiplash (2014) is a psychological thriller that dives deep into the music world and seeing what it takes to make it in the music business as well as revealing that world’s darkest and most abusive moments. The main character Andrew has all the ambition and dedication towards achieving his lifelong dream and is willing to do whatever it takes to get there, even if it means being a personal punching bag to his teacher Fletcher. 

The film explores three main themes that often occur in real life situations but are not often seen on the big screen: the life of an aspiring (and struggling) musician; mental and physical health; and personal sacrifice.  

The Film’s Themes

The life of an aspiring musician is not an easy nor linear path, however in film, the lesser seen gritty underbelly of instrumental music is not often portrayed. I have had heard stories from friends who were in band and orchestra before about the grueling process and hours spent practicing, including hearing a few stories where the teacher/instructor would throw music stands at their students if they began playing out of tune or misbehaving. In Whiplash (2014), Andrew frequently faces abuse from Fletcher but enables because he believes that his methods will lead him to success. 

Since Andrew meeting Fletcher, his own mental and physical health has often been in jeopardy. At one point, the film does address the cruelness of Fletcher’s teaching methods, but Andrew remains adamant that Fletcher can help him be a better musician. For instance, following the falling out between Andrew and Fletcher, Andrew and his father meets with another parent whose goal is to get Fletcher fired from the music school due to his past/present abusive behaviours towards his students. She informs Andrew of past incidents where some of Fletcher’s ex-students went into deep depressions and “had their sanity whipped clean from this earth”. Fletcher wants his students to succeed, however, his methods are cruel, unorthodox, and rarely affective. Except when it comes to Andrew, so he continues to him in the same ways. Andrew’s dedication and obsession for becoming the greatest drummer of his time leads him down destructive path that both rewards and harms him, physically and emotionally. 

The film also discusses personal sacrifice. You can’t have everything you want all at once, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy having what you already have even if you think you’ll just lose it in the end. However, this wasn’t something Andrew realized until he lost the most important person in his life, his girlfriend Nicole. When Andrew breaks up with Nicole, he does it because he believes she’ll get in his way of his dream. Instead of letting her down easy, he acts like a jerk and dumps her without explaining why. Later in the film (after months have passed since the breakup), Andrew realizes that he made a mistake and wants her back. However, when he calls her, she turns him down.

That End Scene

The most shocking scene in the entire film was the ending scene where Andrew (and the audience) discover that Fletcher set him up to fail in front of thousands of people, including some major recording companies and music critics. However, Andrew does what any performer would and does do best when in the spotlight: he improvises. Andrew performs the longest drum solo ever seen (or at least, the longest one I have ever seen). Even though he had set him up to fail, the camera pans to Fletcher and tracks his movements to the stage where he decides to help and encourage Andrew to keep playing. 

Andrew’s journey to rising success is a long and painful one, but in the end, creates an incredible and powerful ending with a twist and a drum solo that’ll rock your world. 

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