How far would you go in pursuit of your passion?

How far is healthy?

If your passion drives you – can there be any limits to it?

Thus is the setup for the brilliant opening night film Whiplash the utterly successful, energetic opening night film that sets the bar quite high for the films that follow.

Here’s the Sundance guide description – so you can get a sense of the story:
Andrew, a promising 19-year-old drummer at a cutthroat Manhattan music conservatory, has little interest in being just a musician. Haunted by his father’s failed writing career and plagued with the fear that mediocrity just might be genetic, Andrew dreams of greatness. Determined not to follow in his father’s footsteps, he practices daily until his hands literally bleed. The pressure of success ratchets into high gear when he is picked to join the school band led by the infamous Terence Fletcher, a brutally savage music instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential. Under Fletcher’s ruthless direction, Andrew begins to pursue perfection at any cost—even his humanity.

Sprung from his 2013 Sundance Film Festival award-winning short film, Whiplash is the brilliantly realized feature that writer/director Damien Chazelle always intended to make. Driven by fierce, searing performances from Miles Teller as Andrew and J.K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher, Whiplash crescendos to a blistering climax that will rattle audiences long after the lights come up. – D.

It’s really wild to think that just one year ago Chazell’s short played here and he’s managed to accomplish such a fantastic film with such true precision in the interim.

Its strength is that the storytelling is just as focused as Andrew’s drumming obsessions -it doesn’t stray from that path by letting a melodramatic love story interrupt and in the film – Andrew even decides to forgo a blossoming relationship in lieu of more practice time. To it’s credit we focus solely on the dynamic between eager student and weathered, demanding teacher in ways that simultaneously seem both familiar and fresh.

Crackling dialogue intermixes as we see Andrew’s ghosts taunt him as he practices until he bleeds in hopes of not becoming great – but rather “one of the greats.”

I’m a deep lover of diverse forms of music, but learning how to play anything evaded me for my entire life. Here the narrative and music are interwoven to such expertise that it far extends, Chazelle’s 26 years and has an authoritative feel.

His character driven script, plus the perfect tonality for music and pacing blends very emotional performances into a film that is sure to gain fans as the world sees it.

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons give stand-out performances – likely awards worthy if the right studio can pick this film up and give it the care it needs to reach it’s audience but without a doubt Damien Chazelle is a brightly shining talent to watch.

-Jeff Goldsmith

2013, 105 minutes, color, U.S.A., U.S. Dramatic

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