So I’m an artist (words) who loves artists who work in other media – visual, aural, multimedia.
Love and need music, especially American multi-cultural improvisational music. OK, let’s call it jazz. But anything deeply soulful will do.
To Whiplash, which I saw last night. The idea excited me: a young jazz drummer confronted by a perfectionist teacher who tears him up and rebuilds him into fiery greatness. Interesting premise.
Flawed in conception and on the screen.
The super-verbal bad-ass alchemist/teacher musician.
The nonverbal (drums are his language) young man who kinds of acts like he’s on the autism spectrum.
Quick turns by his father, who is devoted and kind to him, but….has the terrible flaw of not “making it” as a writer financially, so has to become that dreadful thing, a teacher (note to screenwriters of Whiplash: like 95% of serious writers depend on another way to make a living), and by a pallid short-term girlfriend.
Constant filler of excellent young musicians in the band, all ignored by bad-ass teacher of the band, who saves his wrath for drummers, especially our hero.
The idea, basically, is that drummer Jo Jones threw a cymbal at young Charlie Parker once, and this caused Charlie Parker to become great. Therefore, the bad-ass teacher throws, curses, denigrates, insults, jeers, and fires young hopeful drummers in front of their bandmates, this in order to make them either great, or destroy them for not being great. Coincidentally, our young drummer idolizes Buddy Rich, a drummer who routinely threw things, cursed, denigrated, jeered at and fired many musicians on his bandstand. I can say this because I had a boyfriend who was a musician in the Buddy Rich Band and saw this with my own eyes. I was,by the way, also denigrated by Buddy Rich.
But anyway, my main gripe here is that why would a budding drummer genius pick Buddy Rich as his idol? When there was/is: Roy Haynes, Art Blakey, and so on and so on. I think Buddy Rich was a schmuch. (sic)
Along the way, our young drummer:
1.Consistently bleeds for his art, onto his drum kit.
2. Has a car accident when he’s speeding to a gig, is hit by a truck head on, but staggers out of the turned-over car, bleeding, runs to the gig, bleeds again on the kit. And gets fired by the monster teacher.
3. Kind of cracks up but doesn’t do drugs, just isolates. Wanders into a little jazz club in the Village one night where the monster teacher (now fired for his outrageous abuse of students, thanks secretly in part to our hero drummer), and lo! The asshole teacher is the pianist of a quartet, playing sensitive sounds a la Bill Charlip (bit of a reach). Then of course they have the rapprochement.
4. Ends up playing his ass off (actually hogging the band’s time) at Carnegie Hall, demonstrating his genius, but more importantly, that Jo Jones was right-on.
Moral: Chew up the good to get the great out.
Naw, I can’t see it.