Don’t be alarmed at the presence of the dreaded Scum Bucket: For this week’s installment of At the Movies, Rolling Stone movie critic Peter Travers turns that cinematic crap receptacle into the “Drum Bucket” with his review of Damien Chazelle’s directorial debut, music-drama Whiplash. Travers is “beating the drum for this movie,” and he’s confident everyone else will, too.
The film tells the story of Andrew (Miles Teller), a student jazz drummer who – in his quest to become one of the all-time skin-pounding greats – endures the physical and emotional wrath of Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), the “worst teacher from hell ever.” The plot is largely inspired by Chazelle’s own experiences as a student drummer: “It nearly killed him to do it,” Travers says, “but what we’re seeing is somebody learn through torture.”
Travers says that Andrew (and, by extension, Teller) is “willing to take more abuse than anybody I’ve ever seen in a movie,” adding up to actor’s best-ever performance. Meanwhile, playing a no-nonsense drum dictator, Simmons slips naturally into the “role of his career” – one Travers predicts will earn an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
No doubt about it: Whiplash is sure to dazzle music lovers. But its core story – a dreamer on a determined quest toward his destiny – is universal. “Even if you don’t care about drumming,” Travers says, “even if you don’t know what jazz drumming is – and you should – this movie will do it for you.”