The Acclaimed Drumming Drama Whiplash Looks Intense

Slate's Culture Blog
July 24 2014 5:17 PM

The Acclaimed Drumming Drama Whiplash Looks Intense

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash.

Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Jazz drumming may not seem like an obvious subject for gripping cinema. But judging by its reception at Sundance (where it won the Grand Jury prize and Audience award) and Cannes (where it was selected for the Director’s Fortnight), writer-director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash squeezes quite the compelling drama out of shuffles, drags, and fills.

Miles Teller plays Andrew, a teenaged drumming aficionado with his eyes set on greatness. He enrolls at a prestigious New York City conservatory where his teacher, Mr. Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), believes his students can only achieve greatness if he pushes them “beyond what’s expected of them.” “Beyond,” in this case, means calling Andrew “a worthless pansy-ass,” throwing things at him, and even slapping him across the face. Fletcher’s approach to motivation verges on abuse, but Andrew seems more than willing to take what his teacher dishes out if it means mastering his art.


Impressively, Teller—who since his star turn in The Spectacular Now has been lauded as “the best young male actor in America”—does all the drumming himself. And Simmons, so often cast in supporting, fatherly roles, gets a chance to show some serious dramatic chops. Whiplash continues its festival run in Toronto in September and hits theaters on Oct. 10.

Eliza Berman is an intern in the culture department at Slate.



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Amazon Is Launching a Serious Run at Apple and Samsung


Slim Pickings at the Network TV Bazaar

Three talented actresses in three terrible shows.


More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

We Could Fix Climate Change for Free. Now There’s Just One Thing Holding Us Back.

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 7:03 PM Once Again, a Climate Policy Hearing Descends Into Absurdity
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Sept. 17 2014 4:49 PM Schooling the Supreme Court on Rap Music Is it art or a true threat of violence?
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?