Sundance Review: Whiplash

Monday night I got to see one of the last screenings of the festival: The Best of Fest presentation of Whiplash. This film about an aspiring drummer competing for recognition at one of the finest musical conservatories (and his verbally abusive teacher who pushes him to the limit) has been one of most talked about films of the festival and when it won two of the biggest awards (namely the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Award and the Audience Award,) I was naturally aching to see it. Boy have I never heard a title so appropriate to a film. This movie will jerk you around and make you feel it long afterward. It's hard to explain all the feelings I have about this film, but it's important to make something clear right away: this film is unbelievably and emotionally intense; it is not for the faint of heart (meaning, though I myself see its value and respect it, I can't in full confidence say it was completely for me either.)

Many times when I find myself reviewing a movie I speak about the film as a whole and don't get into the specifics of what the content of the film actually contains. Truth be told, I never know who my audience is and what their sensibilities are, so I usually let them do their own research about that. In this case, while I can separate specifically amazing things this particular film offers and speak for its merit as a whole, I also can't ignore things that really made me feel uncomfortable. That being? Some absolutely atrocious language. That may sound silly to some, but it wasn't just the words but the venom and intensity with which they were spoken. I definitely felt their intended effect and it wasn't a good feeling. If that's the kind of thing that doesn't bother you, then this shouldn't be a problem. But...in all honesty it bothers me (and in fact you may look forward to another post where I tackle that entire subject altogether,) so for that reason almost alone I can't give the glowing review you're seeing all over the Internet. I do understand the purpose of it. Clearly what they were going for was achieved and the screenplay will no doubt be embraced and adored...but I just myself can't really feel that way.

Though that affected a lot of my feelings towards the film, there were many redeeming factors that I also couldn't deny. After all, I never said this movie wasn't a great film. It most definitely is...and perhaps is even arguably a masterpiece. It has quite a lot going for it. The performances, direction, cinematography, editing, its compelling story, and music were all nothing short of amazing. Both JK Simmons and Miles Teller give just as much to their roles as their characters do to their music. And it's kind of amazing to see the two go head to head with each other.

Whiplash was certainly one of the most gripping, mesmerizing and intense films I've seen in some time. The character studies that take place in this film are absolutely fascinating...but when it comes down to it, I just wish my ears could have suffered far less. If that doesn't bother you in the slightest that's fine, this just happens to be one gal's opinion that found it a bit much. EMILY RATING: 9/10.


Eric Gifford said...

Hey Emily - saw your blog on the Google Plus film group. I just watched this movie and.... oh my goodness. Did you ever watch Warrior? That was one of this most emotionally intense movies I'd ever watched and this take that hands down. At times I was cowering in the corner of my couch, at other times laughing out loud. I understand your feeling about the language - I try to avoid the strong stuff but this was something else, although it didn't turn me off to the film as much as you. My take on it:


Emily said...

Thanks for your comment! As time has gone on, I don't really associate Whiplash anymore with the language...so much as the feeling it gave me and it was such a great film. Only one film topped it for me last year.