Damien Chazelle - Whiplash (2014), 5/10

Neiman and Fletcher’s intense but painfully toxic relationship carries the narrative and effectively overshadows the presentation of the entire film. Simmons’ triumphant performance dwarfs everyone else’s acting to such an extreme degree that it becomes difficult to buy into the premise, especially one leaning into the jazz world without fully embracing reality in favor of dramatics. Of course, the story is successfully presented with a remarkably strong conclusion, both narratively and cinematically but it presents itself as woefully lost at many points and is more of a redemptive experience than a wholly satisfying one. This makes its depth practically non-existent, relying on such a crescendo for its presumptuous message of unilateral focus and passion makes much of the story either meaningless or frustratingly misguided filler. The visual presentation is entertaining and relatively enjoyable, but nothing extraordinary and certainly nothing remarkable. In the end, Whiplash feels like a story that clings to false idols and tragically confused principles. When a story relies on two caricatures and is filled with secondary characters only used as simple vehicles for the leads, it fails to remain immersive and any statements it makes, whether intelligent or not, will not appear convincing. Characters like Nicole or Neiman’s family are hollow shells that Neiman bounces his ridiculous ideas against, reinforcing his own single-minded approach to life. This would be fine with any consideration of depth but falls flat because they are half-baked conversations that look, feel, and sound ridiculously cinematic and unrealistic. For Simmons’ performance and a decently written script, Whiplash is a film with a solid presentation but little in the way of narrative foundation or quality cinematics.