TIFF 2014: Whiplash
Whiplash has been one of the biggest hits on the festival circuit so far this year, getting rave reviews from Sundance, Cannes, and from many audiences here in Toronto as well. And it’s pretty easy to see why: An impressive cast makes for an entertaining watch. But the film ultimately keeps its focus too shallow and stays within its comfort zone. A flimsy attempt at a love story could have been explored further for maximum impact, but it might as well have been nonexistent. One thing’s for sure; Whiplash will be the best film about drumming that you’ll see all year.
The up-and-coming Miles Teller portrays an aspiring drummer who will do whatever it takes to earn a spot on an élite ensemble. But to do that he must impress the unforgiving and impossible-to-please instructor, played by J.K. Simmons (who gives his best impression of the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket). One of the primary messages of Whiplash is about pushing people to their limits (and sometimes over their limits), that much is clear. But a particular “rushing or dragging” bit in one scene grew tiresome and repetitious despite its poignant intentions. The film’s energetic soundtrack and performances inspire an appreciation for the art of drumming, but as a whole Whiplash misses more than a few beats.