Andrea's Review of Whiplash
“Whiplash” tackles each of these questions and steadfastly declines to make it easy for its audience. What we witness is an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. By the end we lose sight of which is which.
The film's values are those of the teacher, but its perspective, and thus its gritty aesthetics that includes blood on the drum sets, remain firmly with the student. During Andrew's most irrational moments, the camera goes shaky and blurry. “Whiplash” makes few concessions to its audience, expecting you to draw conclusions from its stars and setting, with realistic dialogue that refuses to be witty or expository.
In the process, “Whiplash” trashes with the force of a hurricane every single cliché of the perfectly nurturing teacher and the blossoming student. We see little to nothing of Fletcher's gentle side, and the students unfortunate enough to suffer his abuse do not bond because of it. They are willing to take it because they are the ones who can thrive in such a competitive environment, and they will suffer much to get a place in it.
The musical finale at the end is the kind of scene that every single movie about music aspires to have, one that plays its audience as adeptly and thrillingly as Teller does his drums. You'll be amazed, you'll marvel at it, and you'll leave the theater in wonder. It may even lead to a concession of sorts, that if Fletcher's repellent methods can bring this about, then there might be something to be said for them. It's the oldest question of ethics itself, the one involving ends and their means, and one that every audience member is left to debate for themselves.