Lord, have mercy! Did you see J. K. Simmons burn up the movie screen in WHIPLASH? What a vivid, intense performance. First of all, you have to suspend your belief and give yourself over to the fact that this is a movie and not a documentary. Simmons plays Fletcher, a physically and verbally abusive jazz instructor at a very upscale conservatory. He slaps a student. He throws objects at a student. He makes fun of a chubby kid's weight. He calls the students "faggots" and other inappropriate terms. If I was a parent and if a music teacher had thrown something at my child's head and called him a "faggot," he'd need to see a proctologist to remove the clarinet I'd shove up his ass.
I'll explain Fletcher this way: He would totally dig Judy Garland's thrilling, jazzy, bongo-driven rendition of "Come Rain or Come Shine" that she did in her legendary Carnegie Hall concert. Her rendition was different from Frank Sinatra's recording or Sarah Vaughan's. Fletcher would hate every young female on American Idol or The Voice who sings "At Last" the same exact way Etta James did in her hit cover. Etta's was an inspired interpretation of a song introduced in an early 1940s 20th Century Fox musical. The Glenn Miller Orchestra with a vocalist did "At Last" in 1942's Orchestra Wives (available on DVD). Etta covered it about 1960 with some R&B flavor. Her version has been copied ever since.
One interesting thing about this film as that Fletcher does not fall in the "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach" category. He's talented. Like Boris Lermontov, Anton Walbrook's ballet impresario character in 1948's The Red Shoes, Fletcher can be polite and charming in addition to being a cold-hearted brute. J.K. Simmons totally rocks this role. I've been a fan of his for a long time. I first noticed J.K. Simmons when he played the Aryan racist leader in the HBO prison drama series, Oz. He was one vile, chilling convict on Oz. By the way, the biggest crime during the 1997 to 2003 Oz run was that no cast member ever got an Emmy nomination. Simmons, Chris Meloni, Lee Tergesen, BD Wong and the terrific Rita Moreno did some excellent work on that series.
Again, Fletcher is a monster who hates mediocrity. This movie and the performances by J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller are far from mediocre. See it if you can. Whiplash brought J.K. Simmons an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The movie is in the running for Best Picture. J.K. won a Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Award for his searing performance. He got nominated for the Australian Oscar (Australian Film Institute Award) and the BAFTA (the British equivalent to the Oscars). He won the AAFCA Award (the African-American Film Critics Association).
Simmons will be guest host this coming weekend on Saturday Night Live.