I love a good movie villain. Almost everyone does. He or she can help make a film.
Whiplash has one, played near-psychotically by J.K. Simmons. It’s a fine performance, nasty and sadistic, a portrayal of a vicious jazz instructor at a prestigious music conservatory. And Simmons is quite chilling in the role.
But it’s not multidimensional, in my opinion; instead, it’s relatively one-note. That’s part of the reason why I don’t consider Whiplash a masterpiece.
Yes, it’s compelling in places, but this tale of a student drummer who aspires to greatness lacks credibility in many places … including in the scenes at the school itself, where Simmons’ character abuses and manipulates his charges horribly without anyone confronting him or complaining for a long time. There’s also the aftermath of a car wreck that doesn’t seem believable, along with a host of other situations that stretch the imagination.
The picture does have dash and style, and it tells a strong story. The holes, however, are sizable and prevent me from lauding it too much. Director Damien Chazelle moves the action along, yet it still feels padded, with multiple places where it could have ended.
I’m not interested in seeing this movie again; it was very unpleasant to watch, and I can’t say I enjoyed it. It does have lots to offer, however … just not enough to make it great.
There are few films in that class, I know. And many have more than just a strong villain.