If you’ve ever seriously pursued the arts –- dance, music, theatre, fine arts , or been deeply committed to mastering a sport , or experienced a tough teacher who demanded nothing but your best and tolerated no excuses -- then Whiplash is a film that will resonate powerfully with you.
It’s a familiar theme (think “Fame,” “Drumline”)— A musical drama about a talented, hot-shot kid (Miles Teller) attending “the finest musical school in the country,” determined to be the best at his art form (drumming) who learns a lesson about the often lethal demands The Muse and The Maestro (J. K. Simmons at his fearsome best) can make on their acolytes.
Add into this mix another question: How far can/should a teacher go to ensure one of his students not only achieves his own personal best, but breaks through to “greatness?”
As those issues play out, the viewer is given a cringe-worthy glimpse into what it can take to master any art form that demands peak performance – the grinding, exhausting mastery of the basics, the harrowing discipline required, and the dreams broken by the cruel, inexorable winnowing of “good enough” from “excellent,” from “great.”
And asks the hard questions: Who pays the price for greatness? What’s the cost of failure? And is it worth it?