The pressures of perfection

By: Kaitlyn McKay, Columnist

Whether or not you will like the film “Whiplash” depends almost solely on if you find an instructor cruelly berating a student entertaining. This is the first, and most important thing to know about “Whiplash,” the entire film shows a teacher treating his student in a way that most people would consider unacceptable, but to others, is viewed as necessary to unleash the ultimate potential in a talented individual.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is a talented young drummer who enrolls at a prestigious conservatory, determined to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a conductor at the conservatory, invites him to be a part of his studio band and everything goes downhill from there. Fletcher is abusive, insulting and humiliates his students to push them past their limits. Andrew continually tries to push past his limit, and distance himself from relationships that he considers a “distraction.” Yet this puts him in physically harmful situations.

“Whiplash” feels longer than its one hour and forty-six minute run time, but every second is entrancing. Simmons’s universal praise as the cutthroat Fletcher is well deserved as it’s the type of performance where the actor is the character. Teller is also great as Andrew, who shows a desperate drive that can either be pitied or admired.

The end of the film asks the audience if the abusive nature of Fletcher’s teaching is truly worth it. Although what he’s doing to these kids is clearly wrong, he does it for the benefit of the student. Fletcher specifically states in the third act that he does it to push people past their limit until they reach the point of sheer perfection. He believes that those who give up and let Fletcher’s attitude get to them, either didn’t really want it or were never truly great to begin with. Without spoiling too much, this is question is ultimately the reason for why you will either love or hate this ending. Either way, the film is intense and your eyes will be glued to the screen from start to end.

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