The kid, Andrew Neyman played by Miles Teller is learning jazz at the prestigious Shaffer Academy in New York. He is discovered by a senior conductor at the school, Terence Fletcher who selects Andrew, from among his peers to be a part of his studio band that goes on to compete at jazz competitions. Andrew is excited to have got the opportunity and eager to learn since he has always been interested in becoming a drummer from a young age. Fletcher, who is known for hurling abuses at his students during rehearsals, insults and almost beats up Neyman for disturbing the tempo of the band while practising a piece ‘Whiplash’. Facing public humiliation, Neyman is determined to prove himself to his teacher at any cost and puts in his blood and sweat (quite literally) to perfect the piece.
This leads to a series of events where Andrew gets the opportunity of performing at one of the competitions as a core drummer until Fletcher gets a competitor, Ryan to threaten his position. During one of the competitions, Andrew gets late due to unavoidable circumstances- bus breaks down, the car he is driving meets with an accident, he forgets his drumsticks at the car rental store; cause of which Fletcher is about to replace him with Ryan. At one point, when Andrew has to rush back to the car rental store to fetch his drumsticks and eventually meets with an accident since he is speeding to reach the venue in time, I felt he is not going to make it cause he is bleeding profusely. But the kind of competent lad he is, he cannot let go even an opportunity like this to impress his teacher and makes it to the venue anyhow(which impressed me immensely), only to disappoint everyone as he is not in a condition to play the piece. Post the competition, Fletcher agonises him by rebuking ‘ He is done’, that leads to a on-stage scuffle between the two.
Andrew is expelled for his unsolicited behaviour and gives up drumming since he feels that he isn’t worthy of becoming like one of his inspiring legends Buddy Rich. On his father’s coercion, Andrew testifies a lawyer’s statement who is representing a suicide case of one of Fletcher’s students leading to Fletcher’s dismissal from the academy.
Andrew and Fletcher meet again at a club where Fletcher tells him that his ways might be different but he only wants to push his students beyond what is expected of them. It is an inspiring conversation between a teacher and a student, where the teacher thinks that the two words in English which are utterly harmful is ‘Good Job’ since that would always deter a student from giving his best. Fletcher invites Andrew to play at a concert in his band where the so-called art loving critics of New York are going to be present, avenging Andrew with a piece, sheets of which aren’t present with him while drumming. A humiliated Andrew gives it back by playing an impressive solo piece of Caravan on his drums and stuns Fletcher as well as the audience by the sheer brilliance of his scale. The performance was worth an encore; sharp, electric and spellbinding.
Watching Whiplash made me question some of the core exigencies of modesty. Cause, sometimes, we authorize a force to govern our life to such an unimaginable extent that we forget our own inner voice or gut instinct, so to say. In this case, Fletcher was the governing factor in Neyman’s life, so much so that Neyman gave up his dream of becoming a drummer on being expelled and failing at Fletcher’s expectations. During the entire movie, Neyman was struggling with his insecurities and a constant threat of proving himself to his teacher. He needed Fletcher’s validation to ascertain the talent he had cause otherwise there was no source of inspiration for him to struggle and excel. I am glad Neyman came back after almost giving up and won everyone’s hearts including that of Fletcher. But, shouldn’t there be a line where you decide when and how you give up rather than somebody else imposing failure on you?
I think there should be and this movie teaches you that in so many ways.