Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash at the Modern.
Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash at the Modern.

Playing this weekend at the Modern, Whiplash is a soft-headed melodrama at heart, but its performances alone are worth watching. Andrew (Miles Teller) is a talented jazz drummer whose dreams of being the next Buddy Rich seem to be coming true when his conservatory professor (J.K. Simmons) recruits him for the school’s best jazz band. But the professor is a classic bully who hurls a wooden chair at Andrew’s head when he plays off tempo, then gets in his face and bellows, “If you sabotage my band, I will fuck you like a pig!”

Andrew is too polite to ask whether the prof is in the habit of sodomizing livestock, but you do wonder how no other student seems to have ever been brave or apathetic or stupid enough to stand up to the teacher. Nevertheless, Teller excels in an atypically sensitive, introverted role, and Simmons makes his drill sergeant-like bandleader into a guy raging at a world that embraces mediocrity by rejecting him. Writer-director Damien Chazelle takes a cubist approach to the story, using sidelong glances to give little glimpses of life at music school (like the wind players licking their reeds) as well as Andrew’s determination that makes him practice until he gets blood all over the drumkit. The final sequence, in which Andrew finally throws off his teacher’s yoke with a thunderous drum solo, will bring you out of your seat.


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[box_info]Whiplash runs Fri-Sun at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St, FW. Tickets are $7-9. Call 817-738-9215.[/box_info]