Thursday, October 9, 2014

Film Review: Whiplash

It's been a while, and I think that's because I only seem to write in this blog when a film or TV show touches me emotionally or causes me to think.  Whiplash is one of those films.

I have heard the OSCAR buzz about it and while I do think it has a chance with its powerful performances, I'm wondering how people feel about J.K. Simmons' character of Fletcher. I hated him.

I totally get the tough-love approach to getting people to do their best.  When I was a kid in school that was the way to do it.  A teacher or a coach could be mean, be nasty and push buttons to get the kids to do their best, much like a drill sergeant in the army.  It's not like today's "good job" coaching where everyone wins.  I realize why it's not done as much, because in some cases it's akin to bullying.

My view is that while I am on the fence with tough coaching (when it works and it's done right, go for it, but think about the psyche of the people you're using it on), I think Fletcher, while saying his motivation was to bring out the best in people, is a bit extreme in his practices.  In one scene he kicks out a note-perfect trombone player from his band probably because he felt the student was too weak and sensitive, when he didn't punish the real off-note saxophonist for what he was going after in the first place, knowing the difference between being in tune and not.  And the saxophonist was not in tune, but he didn't punish him.  What kind of lesson was that?  Playing favorites?  Do you think the saxophonist felt guilty or responsible for the ouster of the other student?  If he did, he didn't show it.

And yet, I'm reading in reviews that Fletcher should be applauded for his efforts.  Did I miss the point?  He wasn't too extreme?

I like J.K. Simmons.  If he wins an OSCAR, that's fantastic.  If the film does well, that's great as the characters are well defined and the music is great.  I just wonder if we are all reading Fletcher the same way.  Is he a hero or a villain?  Should he be applauded?