Whiplash Information

Whiplash is a 2014 American drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle. The film stars Miles Teller as a young jazz drummer who attends one of the best music schools in the country under the tutelage of the school"?s fearsome maestro of jazz (J. K. Simmons). It also stars Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, Jayson Blair, and Kavita Patil.

The film premiered in-competition in the US Dramatic Category at 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 16, 2014, as the opening film of the festival. Shortly after the film's premiere screening, Sony Pictures Worldwide acquired the international distribution rights.


Andrew Neiman is a 19-year-old jazz drummer who, at the start of the film, is accepted into the Shaffer Conservatory, the best music school in the United States. He begins dating Nicole, a college student working at a cinema frequented by Andrew and his father. He aspires to become one of the drummer "greats", like Buddy Rich. With many of his classmates knowing that an infamous Shaffer conductor Terence Fletcher is looking for a new drum alternate, Neiman successfully auditions for Fletcher in a surprise in-class band session. While Fletcher at first seems courteous and nice to Andrew, it becomes clear that Fletcher is a master at manipulating emotions, as when he abuses and harasses several of the band's players. While practicing the Hank Levy song "Whiplash", Fletcher makes Andrew the target of his abuse and throws a chair at him for not following the tempo. He slaps and berates him in front of the class, who silently watch.

Determined to win over Fletcher, Andrew spends all of his spare time practicing and breaks up with Nicole, as he believes she would have left him anyway because his desire to be one of the greats will mean he cannot afford to give her the time she thinks she deserves, which he bluntly states to her. At a local Jazz competition, however, he is promoted to main drummer, after he misplaces the previous drummer's sheet music, performing "Whiplash" from memory. Andrew is sent back down to alternate when Ryan, the core drummer for his former class, replaces him. After angrily confronting him, Fletcher berates Andrew to earn the role as main drummer. After practicing vigorously for the next week, Andrew is shocked when Fletcher tearfully reveals in the next class session that a former student of his, Sean Casey, had died in a car accident the day previously, having been a "marvelous musician", according to Fletcher. After becoming violent with the drummers' inability to follow the tempo correctly, Fletcher decides to let Andrew perform in the upcoming concert, as Andrew auditions the best double-time-swing.

On the way to the concert, Andrew's bus breaks down, and the replacement bus stops far away from his destination. Andrew runs to a rental car office, where he acquires a car, but accidentally leaves his drumsticks behind. Andrew arrives late for rehearsal and is kicked out by Fletcher for not bringing his drumsticks. Andrew speeds back to the rental car office and grabs the drumsticks. While he is on his cell phone explaining that he will be back in time for the performance, Andrew's car is hit by a truck. Dazed, Andrew stumbles out and runs to the concert in time. Despite being bloody and having broken his left hand, Andrew decides to perform, only to repeatedly drop his drumstick mid-song due to his injuries. Fletcher tells Andrew he is "done", causing Andrew to attack him in front of the audience.

A few weeks later, Andrew has been expelled from Shaffer. His father gets in contact with a lawyer representing the parents of Sean Casey, who is revealed to have hanged himself. The lawyer explains that Sean began suffering severe anxiety and depression after joining Fletcher's class, and his parents want to make sure Fletcher can no longer inflict his abuse on any more students. Andrew testifies, contributing to Fletcher's getting fired from Shaffer. Months later, Andrew learns that Fletcher is performing in a club. He watches and is spotted by Fletcher. They have a drink and Fletcher tries to explain his behavior. He states that he pushes his students, hoping for them to become the next jazz legend. He feels that his job is not to conduct the band but to create a great musician. Fletcher explains that he is conducting at the JVC festival concert, and invites Andrew to perform, as Fletcher's current drummer is not adequate; additionally, the band is performing the same songs that the Shaffer band had been playing. Andrew agrees to perform and invites Nicole, who says that she has a new boyfriend and cannot come.

On the day of the concert, Andrew gets ready for his performance and spots his dad in the audience. Once on stage, Fletcher approaches Andrew and reveals he knows that Andrew got him fired. Andrew realizes he has been tricked, and the band begins playing a song Andrew does not know and was not given the sheet music for. Andrew flounders and plays unknown beats until the end of the performance. Andrew runs offstage and is comforted by his father. He goes back on stage and sits down at the drum set. Before Fletcher can finish speaking, Andrew begins playing "Caravan" from his old class, leading the other performers to join him. At first, Fletcher is annoyed at being interrupted and beaten in his own trick. However, Fletcher soon realizes that Andrew might have the drive that he has been hoping to find in just one student his entire career, a drive that could lead Andrew to becoming one of the best. After the song finishes, Andrew continues an extravagant drum solo and finishes to see Fletcher, nodding and weeping. Realizing he finally has Fletcher's approval, Andrew laughs and the screen cuts to black.



Originally conceived in the form of an 85-page screenplay, Chazelle's Whiplash came to prominence after being featured in the 2012 Black List that includes the top motion picture screenplays not yet produced. Right of Way Films and Blumhouse Productions teamed up to produce, and in order to secure financing for the feature, helped Chazelle turn 15 pages of his original screenplay into a short film starring Johnny Simmons in the role of the drummer and J. K. Simmons (no relation) in the role of the teacher. The 18-minute short film went on to much acclaim after screening at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, which ultimately attracted investors to sign on and produce the complete version of the script. The feature-length film was financed for $3.3 million by Bold Films.

In August 2013, Miles Teller signed on to star in the role originated by Johnny Simmons; J. K. Simmons remained attached to his original role. Principal photography began the following month with filming taking place throughout Los Angeles, including the Hotel Barclay, Palace Theater, and the Orpheum Theatre.


Box office

Whiplash opened in a limited release in the United States in six theaters and grossed $135,388, averaging $22,565 per theater and ranking #34 at the box office. The film has so far earned $4,415,000 domestically and $901,092 elsewhere for a total of $5,316,092.

Critical response

Whiplash has received universal acclaim from critics upon its premiere on the opening night of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. The film has a "certified fresh" score of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 180 reviews with an average rating of 8.6 out of 10. The critical consensus states "Intense, inspiring, and well-acted, Whiplash is a brilliant sophomore effort from director Damien Chazelle and a riveting vehicle for stars J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller." The film also has a score of 87 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 43 critics indicating "universal acclaim".

Peter Debruge, in his review for Variety, said that the film "demolishes the cliches of the musical-prodigy genre, investing the traditionally polite stages and rehearsal studios of a topnotch conservatory with all the psychological intensity of a battlefield or sports arena." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised the performances of Teller and Simmons, saying, "Teller, who greatly impressed in last year"?s Sundance entry The Spectacular Now, does so again in a performance that is more often simmering than volatile." McCarthy added, "Simmons has the great good fortune for a character actor to have here found a co-lead part he can really run with, which is what he excitingly does with a man who is profane, way out of bounds and, like many a good villain, utterly compelling." Amber Wilkinson from Telegraph praised the direction and editing "Chazelle's film has a sharp and gripping rhythm, with shots, beautifully edited by Tom Cross (Crazy Heart, Wrong Turn), often cutting to the crash of Andrew's drums." James Rocchi of Indiewire gave a positive review and said, "Whiplash is...full of bravado and swagger, uncompromising where it needs to be, informed by great performances and patient with both its characters and the things that matter to them." Henry Barnes from Guardian gave the film a positive review, calling it a rare film "about music that professes its love for the music and its characters equally."

Simmons' performance in particular has been met with universal acclaim, with many seeing his performance as a true breakout role for the veteran character actor and has been met with considerable Oscar buzz.


In Slate, Forrest Wickman accused the film of distorting and misinterpreting the anecdote about Charlie Parker that both Neiman and Fletcher retell and frequently allude to, in order to fit the film's themes. Both state that drummer Jo Jones threw a cymbal at the teenage Parker's head as punishment for Parker's supposedly losing the beat of the composition they were performing in Count Basie's band during a 1930s performance. "Jones," Wickman wrote, "didn't throw the cymbal at Parker's head. He threw it at the floor around his feet, 'gonging' him off. In other words, it was not an episode of physical abuse." And Jones was not reacting as much to Parker's losing the beat as he was to Parker's failure to change key with the rest of the band.

The incident, both characters recall, inspired Parker to practice obsessively, as Neyman does, in the hope of realizing his potential. "But this version of the tale doesn't reflect where genius really comes from," Wickman writes. "A mounting body of evidence shows that no amount of practice, whether 10,000 hours or 20,000 hours, guarantees true genius." Whiplash he says, does viewers a disservice by promoting the belief that practice makes perfect.

In writing for The New Yorker, film critic Richard Brody argued that "Whiplash honors neither Jazz nor cinema".


The film received the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival; Chazelle's short film of the same name took home the jury award in the U.S. fiction category one year prior. The film also took the grand prize and the audience award for favorite film at the 40th Deauville American Film Festival.

List of Accolades
Award / Film Festival Category Recipient(s) Result
10th Calgary International Film Festival People's Choice Award
(Best Narrative Feature)
Damien Chazelle
67th Cannes Film Festival Queer Palm Award
40th Deauville American Film Festival Grand Prize
Audience Award
24th Gotham Independent Film Awards Best Actor Miles Teller
30th Independent Spirit Awards Best Feature
Best Director Damien Chazelle
Best Supporting Male J.K. Simmons
Best Editing Tom Cross
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actor J.K. Simmons
19th Satellite Awards Best Film
Best Director Damien Chazelle
Best Actor - Motion Picture Miles Teller
Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture J.K. Simmons
Best Sound Thomas Curley, Ben Wilkins, & Craig Mann
37th Mill Valley Film Festival Audience Award Damien Chazelle
30th Sundance Film Festival Dramatic Audience Award
Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic
59th Valladolid International Film Festival Pilar Mir Award
(Best New Director)
Golden Spike
(Best Film)
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actor J.K. Simmons
Palm Springs International Film Festival Spotlight Award J.K. Simmons
21st Screen Actors Guild Awards Best Supporting Actor J.K. Simmons

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