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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
A Drumroll Please
by Betty Jo Tucker

Whiplash, an adrenalin-fueled musical thriller, benefits greatly from brilliant performances by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, who electrify the screen as an ambitious drum student and his abusive instructor/mentor. They definitely deserve a poem, so here goes:  

 

This drummer boy

strives to be best.

His goal? To play

above the rest.

 

Will he survive

a teacher who

makes students cringe

for things they do?

 

This teacher man

shames students all.

He boosts them up

then sees them fall.

 

Both actors here

held me enthralled.

Acting, I think

their art is called.

 

Whiplash deserves

an Oscar shot.

INTENSITY

is what it’s got!

 

But beware, dear reader, for you may be exhausted by the end of this riveting film. It’s a fast-paced offering loaded with wild drum routines, loud jazz numbers and jaw-dropping dialogue. Plus, emotionally draining interactions between the main characters might weigh heavy on your heart and soul. Still, you will be moved. This is a movie you cannot forget. No wonder the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated the film for Oscars in five categories (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing).   

Oscar buzz indicates that Simmons (Juno) is the favorite Best Supporting Actor nominee to beat, and I hope he wins. His dramatic pyro-techniques as a fearless instructor who stops at nothing to push students toward greatness come across as both disturbing and exciting to watch -- or maybe even a bit funny, especially his “not my tempo” tantrums. (Full disclosure: in days of yore I had a debate coach who used similar motivational methods but executed them with a more humane touch.) 

Teller (Footloose) puts so much incredible energy into his drum playing that I could almost see his blood, sweat and tears soak through the screen. I had trouble deciding whether to pity his character or to cheer him on -- or to do both. 

This excellent motion picture deals with the age-old theme of greatness and how far one should go to achieve it. Other movies (sports flicks, I’m talking about you) have explored that issue before -- but none with more ferocity than writer/director Damien Chazelle’s impressive Whiplash.                  

(Released by Sony Pictures Classics and rated “R” for strong language including some sexual references.)

For more information about Whiplash, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes web site.


                                                                                                                                                                               
 
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