Whiplash marches to the beat of its own drummer
‘Whiplash’ comes to home video, giving everyone a chance to see why J.K. Simmons is winning every award in sight.
After generating a lot of buzz during its theatrical run, and quite a few awards nominations and wins along the way to Oscar night, audiences who may have missed Whiplash in theaters can now check it out on home video. Does the film live up to the hype?
The story is fairly simple: young musician attends a prestigious music school in the hopes of becoming a great jazz drummer like his idol Buddy Rich. The student, Andrew (Miles Teller), doesn’t get much support from his family, is an outsider at school, and is terribly awkward with the opposite sex. Andrew stays focused on his music and thinks he’s on the right path when instructor Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) seems to take him under his wing. But the dream becomes a nightmare as Fletcher goes from mentor to monster.
It’s not hard to see why Simmons has been winning every acting award in sight (including the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor). He takes what could have been a horrible, one-note character and gives him many complex layers. He may appear to be a bully, but perhaps he just cares enough to want to help a young musician achieve their own greatness … or he could just be trying to show the world that he can create greatness. It’s a challenging role and Simmons shows us a side of himself that we haven’t seen before. Teller also gives a terrific performance that’s been overshadowed by Simmons, showing us Andrew’s insecurities and determination through his facial expressions. With Fletcher, you never really know what’s going on under the surface but Andrew wears all of his emotions on his sleeve. And Teller learned how to drum for the part as well!
The film is directed astonishingly well by Damien Chazelle, who based the story on his own experience, and produced a very accomplished film in the span of nineteen days! The final musical performance is a head-spinning montage of constantly moving camerawork and sharp editing that deservedly won the Best Editing Oscar. (Most prognosticators pegged Boyhood for the editing win, but there was no question in my mind Whiplash had it sewn up based on this one scene.)
Whiplash is now available on home video, and the Blu-ray is a thing of beauty. The image, consisting of mostly warm browns and inky blacks, is beautiful with enough fine detail to capture lines and scars on faces and drops of sweat and blood as Andrew drives himself to perfection. The disk’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio favors the center channel for the most part, but when the orchestra kicks in during performances and rehearsals, the surrounds fill with music.
The disk also contains a wealth of bonus material … something that’s been lacking in a lot of home video releases of late.
- Audio commentary with Damien Chazelle and J.K. Simmons — The two discuss the process of making the film from casting to locations to crafting performances, with Chazelle being the serious filmmaker and Simmons the comic relief.
- Timekeepers (42:56) — A collection of professional drummers talk about how they got started, their careers, education, influences and more. Featured drummers include Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Doane Perry (Jethro Tull), Roy McCurdy (Blood Sweat and Tears), Gina Schock (The Go-Gos), and Wally Ingram (Timbuk3). The film is entertaining to a point, but I lost interest after about twenty minutes.
- Whiplash Original Short Film (17:56) — The “Rushing/Dragging” scene from the movie with J.K. Simmons and many of the film’s actors/musicians in the same roles. Chazelle recreates this scene in the movie almost shot by shot. Also with optional audio commentary.
- Fletcher at Home (1:30) — A deleted scene with optional commentary. The scene was wisely cut from the film because it reveals a lot about Fletcher that could have affected the rest of the film.
- An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons and Damien Chazelle (7:50) — Q & A at the festival, we learn it took 19 days to shoot the movie, how the director chose the actors and how they prepared for their roles. Best answer is from the director on why he went from jazz drumming to film directing.
- Theatrical trailer and Previews for other Sony titles.
I can’t say that Whiplash is the best film of the year, but it is certainly worth a look. It’s accomplished, the music is great and it features two outstanding performances from Teller and Simmons. The video/audio quality and bonus material on the Blu-ray is certainly an incentive to pick up the title and judge for yourself. And after Oscar night, we can look back on the film and realize that this is the moment Simmons went from more than just a familiar face (and voice of the Yellow M&M) who seems to pop up everywhere.
The Whiplash Blu-ray was generously provided to CliqueClack for review by Sony Pictures Home Video.