In the best scenes of Whiplash, the way that the camera dances around the musicians is purposeful and exhilarating. From above the kit, behind the kit, moving across the line of saxophonists and horn players, each shot cuts to the next with unified precision. It was no surprise the movie has won awards for the editing. Some movies have frames that seem clumsily conceived or shots that linger on too long. One mark of a great scene is an economy of images. Such is the case in the best parts of Whiplash. When Miles Teller drums until his fingers bleed or when J.K. Simmons hurls a chair across the room, there is a fluidity from one shot to the next and a practicality to each frame. The magic here is that the visual aspect of Whiplash is so formally organized, yet it feels so spontaneous that it’s incredibly entertaining.
Perhaps the film’s main attraction is Simmons’s startling turn as a grumpy music teacher, but let us not forget that Miles Teller is playing the drums himself throughout. Or that the film’s soundtrack could make great studying music. Whiplash depicts musicians suffering for their music, but the film also shows how music captures our hearts and makes a home in our lives.
Written on March 23, 2015