Whiplash

Whiplash is a rite of passage film. A young student is put to the test by a hard instructor to see if he can make it. It is like An Officer and a Gentleman, except that this hero wants to be a musician and the hard man is a cruel psychopath who is intent on breaking young people by publicly humiliating them. The cruelty involves insulting students by their family history or sexuality in the crudest and most hateful terms. It is obviously therefore outside the law, but one disquieting feature of this film is the absence of fraternal support among the victims. This gives the film, which drags, a 1984 feel. Are they all so driven that they will face breakdown rather than failing – or showing support for one of their own? Are these young Americans driven to the same suicidal depths as young Asian students are fabled to be? The plot is rarely credible and always corny. We hope that the young man can play the drums because he is a walking time-bomb socially, and God has made him accident prone. To accept this movie, you will have to accept two premises. First, genius might have to be brought out by bastardization. Secondly, cruelty that gets results is justified, even while its victims pile up. Both propositions are offensive, but the second is also pure bullshit. Geniuses are born. The best thing that teachers can do is not to block them. The notion that Charlie Parker, the twentieth century version of Mozart-Lite, became the genius of ‘Bird’ because a pro threw something at him is moonshine fit for the Batman cartoons before the kids’ flicks. Bastardization is outlawed now for officers’ schools after generations of proof of its evil that even the army could not duck. To suggest that it might work on artists is worse than silly. The United States should have a class action for defamation.

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