Monday, July 15, 2019

Whiplash (2014)

In the realm of watching recent acclaimed films that I'd missed previously, I finally made the time time to watch Whiplash. The dust has long settled on this film, and the freshman effort by Damien Chazelle seems to have increasingly gained respect.

But the stress - I could anticipate it just with the early clips and award season clips that they would show of J.K. Simmons as the abusive jazz instructor named Fletcher. Did I need to see this played out? I decided it was time to cross the top 250 film off my list and sit down for the whiplashing.

As expected, in watching it J.K. Simmons was amazing, as was Miles Teller. I suppose in all the clips I wasn't entirely sure how his character would be played out and Chazelle wrote an interesting character who wasn't as cookie cutter as I expected. His response to Fletcher played out as I would have generally expected, but his own personal drive and way he pursued his goal and challenged the system made him far more dimensional than I suppose I expected.

In many ways the film is a challenging one in the sense that the struggle presented is real -- culturally we speak out of both sides of our mouths suggesting that a self congratulating culture where everyone is a winner is bad. Yet, we talk about developing skills and talents in safe spaces in nurturing and caring ways, ignoring the fact that in the same moments we also admire those that rise from adversity. We consistently fail to give credit to the adversity itself for what it breeds.

And if there's anything genius in the story telling, it's that Chazelle doesn't go preachy and instead drives in the gray zone where his audience is forced, even beyond the last scene whether a line has been crossed and if so, at which point was that line crossed. Some viewers are apt to say that line was crossed early on, where others might see Simmons character as a bizarre anti-hero.

Without a doubt, this is certainly a film that lends itself to discussion, matched with an undeniably compelling performance that deservedly won J.K. Simmons the Oscar for best support actor.

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