Damien Chazelle’s fast-paced drama Whiplash finds its setting in the fictional New York Shaffer Conservatory, where Terence Fletcher (J K Simmons) mentors an up-and-coming jazz band with an iron fist. He’s verbally and physically abusive, but he believes that this is necessary in order to breed greatness. In his view, mediocrity is the enemy, and it is his duty to mentor the next great jazz musician.
Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is accepted into Fletcher’s band as a drummer, where he is subjected to extensive abuse. At first, he seems wimpy, not driven, and forgettable. Fletcher’s methods seem to spark something inside him and Andrew endures his abuse in seething anger. Obsessed with becoming someone to be remembered, Andrew pushes himself beyond his limits.
Thanks to Chazelle’s colorful screenplay, the story flows easily, tempered with humor and emotion that feels both natural and surprising. Simmons’ performance as Fletcher is particularly memorable. His character does most of the talking in the film, usually to throw out insults and spur his players (because Whiplash feels so much like a sports movie) into action. Here are twelve of the best quotes from Whiplash.
- Terence Fletcher: There are no two words in the English language more harmful than “good job”.
- Terence Fletcher: Not quite my tempo.
- Andrew: I’m upset!
- Terence Fletcher: For the record, Metz wasn’t out of tune. You were, Erickson, but he didn’t know and that’s bad enough.
- Terence Fletcher: I ask why you stop playing and your version of an answer was to turn into a wind-up monkey.
- Terence Fletcher: Parker’s a young kid, pretty good on the sax. Gets up to play at a cutting session, and he f***s it up. And Jones nearly decapitates him for it. And he’s laughed off stage. Cries himself to sleep that night, but the next morning, what does he do? He practices … And a year later, he goes back to the Reno and he steps up on that stage, and plays the best motherf***ing solo the world has ever heard. So, imagine if Jones had just said, “Well, that’s okay, Charlie … Good job.” And then Charlie thinks to himself, “Well, sh**, I did do a pretty good job.” End of story …
Andrew: But is there a line? You know, maybe you go too far, and you discourage the next Charlie Parker from ever becoming Charlie Parker?
Terence Fletcher: No, man, no. Because the next Charlie Parker would never be discouraged.
- Terence Fletcher: Now, are you a rusher, or are you a dragger, or are you going to be on my f***ing time?!
- Andrew: Hey, you know, f*** off, Johnny Utah! Turn my pages, b*tch!
- Terence Fletcher: Oh, my dear God. Are you one of those single tear people?
- Terence Fletcher: Neiman, you earned the part.
- Andrew: I’d rather die drunk, broke at 34, and have people at a dinner table talk about me than live to be rich and sober at 90 and nobody remember who I was.
- Terence Fletcher: Either you’re deliberately out of tune and sabotaging my band, or you don’t know you’re out of tune, and that’s even worse.