A little diversion from our usual fare, but I recently watched Whiplash ( with Italian subtitles, I feel they don’t quite convey how aggressive Fletcher really is ) and thought it was, at the very least, really interesting. Check out why below.
So I would imagine that a lot of you reading this will have heard about the film – it’s the story of Miles Teller as an incredibly talented, and dedicated, jazz drummer, and how a professor at his music school, the outstanding JK Simmons, pushes him to unbelievable lengths to succeed. If you don’t know it, or even if you do, the trailer is below.
So it all looks pretty intense, right? And it is. I’m not gonna give any spoilers away here, but it is a gripping film, which makes you question the lengths to which people drive themselves, or can be driven, to succeed. But I think that’s actually what I find most interesting about this film – what makes the greats, great? The impetus in this film, or at least according to the swearing, spitting, inscrutable, unforgiving Fletcher, is that you’re not a great until you’ve put in hours on hours on hours of practice, commitment, unrelenting blood, sweat, and tears, all of which our protagnoist, Andrew Neiman, produces at various points of the film. But is that necessarily the case?
The above is Buddy Rich, widely argued to be one the of most outstanding drummers, let alone jazz drummers, to ever have graced the earth. That video shows how ridiculously fast he goes, but this isn’t just someone smacking drums as fast as he can. There’s always a rhythm to it, there’s always a beat, he never misses it. And yet this icon, who Andrew aspires to, who Fletcher constantly references as “the great”, is a man who confessed to never practicing and pretty much just going with his gut. I can totally get behind the idea that putting in the hard work yields results, but surely at some point we have to stand back and just admit, this man is a genius? There was a fairly big backlash to the film, (Whiplash backlash, aren’t words fun?) which was a stark contrast to the enormous praise heaped on the film. I think the film is really good, and it does a great job of showing Teller and Simmons’ acting credentials, but maybe we have to accept that however many hours Neiman put in, and however far he pushed himself, it can only ever be that natural talent which leaves you sitting alongside Buddy Rich, Miles Davis and co in the Jazz hall of fame.