Here's the thing about Damien Chazelle's Sundance hit, Whiplash: it's about jazz drumming. Excited? Probably not, and that was one of the core issues the young writer/director had to face when developing this story about a drumming prodigy and his mentor. The music doesn't immediately lend itself to the cinematic experience. So what was the solution he landed upon? First he gave much of the music more of an upbeat edge, like with the central track, Bob Ellis' "Whiplash"; he crafted a true underdog story audiences can related to; and finally the casting of Miles Teller and JK Simmons in the most dynamic performances of their careers.
All of these factors are prevalent in the first Whiplash trailer, which should give you an idea why many say it was the breakout film in Park City. Teller plays Andrew, a first-year student at a prestigious NYC conservatory, with dreams of being the greatest jazz drummer ever. But to do it he'll have to survive tough-as-leather instructor Terence Fletcher (Simmons) and the perfection he demands of his students. The "Full Metal Jacket at Juilliard" descriptors are more than accurate, but also is the praise heaped on Teller and Simmons. Teller played his own drums throughout and his performance is one I compared to the physical demands of athletes. Obviously, you get the idea this is a personal favorite of mine. It's certainly a crowd pleaser and "will have audiences cheering and begging for an encore."
Whiplash hits theaters on October 10th, and I'm calling it now that Simmons is going to get a Best Supporting Actor nomination out of it. If you're interested in more, check out my interview with Chazelle, Teller, and the rest ofWhiplash's cast.