Disclaimer: Expectations are high going into this film since it had a whole year worth of raves and has been garnering awards/nominations the past few weeks; its five 87th Academy Awards nominations also helped to raise its profile.
A great crowd-pleaser, a cliche plot notwithstanding, that definitely lived up to the hype with a terrific - no, an electrifying - performance by J.K. Simmons. Whiplash deserved its Best Picture and Editing nominations, and Simmons is the one to beat for Best Supporting Actor (sorry, Norton and Hawke).
Damien Chazelle's film managed to engaged the audience almost throughout the 106 minutes, except for those scenes with ex-Gleek Melissa Benoist which really did not serve much purpose in developing Miles Teller's protagonist, despite its cliche over-arching plot. There were still moments where the audience were left in suspense for a bit, which was refreshing.
Chazelle's script had a few good laughs and is up for Best Adapted Screenplay which is a wise-choice since he would unlikely be able to unsurp any of the writers in the Original Screenplay category (with the exception of E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman's Foxcatcher which I have not watched as of this): Boyhood, Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Nightcrawler.
However, ultimately, the success of the film really laid on Simmons and his incredible portrayal of the mentor-from-hell. He was riveting, unpredictable, and totally convincing. He utterly made this character come alive and he owned it. Only Simmons could sell a line like: "that is not your boyfriend's dick, don't cum early" and not make it sound silly, juvenile or rude.
Miles Teller may have finally found his breakout role (interesting to note that he will be the next Mr Fantastic/Richard Reed), however, he will still need a lot of brushing up on his skills, especially with the more emotional-heavy scenes. But otherwise, he got that determined-and-I-am-so-misunderstood artiste down pat.
Kudos also to editor Tom Cross especially in that final scene! Cross and Chazelle gave an energetic, tense, carthatic and riveting finale before the screen fade to black. However, he might likely lose out to the editors for Boyhood or The Grand Budapest Hotel.
The music was by Justin Hurtwitz, but it is really the jazz standards that really lightened up the screen.
Whiplash is a great little movie that was made awesome with Simmon's performance.