Lauded Sundance dramas often get a lot of critical acclaim, but can’t translate that heat into awards season contention. The studios that often distribute the films are too small, the movies are too niche, etc. etc. But that feels like it might be changing in 2014. Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” has already been snatched up by Paramount for home video (which will presumably make it easier to get in front of Oscar voters) and by all accounts, the music drama “Whiplash”— about a young musician struggles to make it as a top jazz drummer— has what it takes to get noticed outside indie circles.
A big crowd pleaser, but smart and never ingratiating, the movie stars Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, and most pundits predict that it could get serious attention over the next few months. And they have a strong point, even if you haven’t seen it. The movie is the rare 2014 indie that has played Sundance and Cannes, and will screen at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. Sundance films rarely repeat at major festivals, but the fact this one is playing two beyond its original Utah premiere is a big deal. Here’s the synopsis:
A pedagogical thriller and an emotional S&M two-hander, Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is brilliantly acted by Miles Teller as an eager jazz drummer at a prestigious New York music academy and J.K. Simmons as the teacher whose method of terrorizing his students is beyond questionable, even when it gets results. Dubbed “Full Metal Jacket at Juilliard” at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, Chazelle’s jazz musical was developed from his short film of the same name, which premiered at Sundance the previous year. The live jazz core that is fused with Justin Hurwitz’s ambient score, the blood-on-the-drum-kit battle between student and teacher, and the dazzling filmmaking will keep your pulse rate elevated from beginning to end. A kinesthetic depiction of performance anxiety—you don’t need to be a musician to feel it—Whiplash also presents us with a moral issue open to debate.
The sophomore filmmaking effort from writer/director Damien Chazelle, who’s earning a lot of buzz himself, “Whiplash” also stars Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist, and is already set for an October 10th release by Sony Pictures Classics. A new international trailer has debuted below, showing more footage and a slightly different tone from what’s been revealed so far. We’ve heard nothing but praise for this one (here’s our Sundance review), so check it out below.