Whiplash is the best non-sports sports movie of all time. That statement is so true and so clear that I shouldn´t waste anybody´s time by over explaining it. But what kind of writer would I be if I didn´t like making things unnecessarily long? A good one? Maybe. Or maybe, “FUCK OFF, JOHNNY UTAH! TURN MY PAGES, BITCH!”
Whiplash checks all the boxes of the classic American sports movie, from the abusive coach and over hyped regional competitions to the drama-filled team dynamics. An orchestra is pretty similar to a sports team; there are egos colliding, talent, pressure, ambition, chemistry issues, physicality… The only thing missing in this one was a racial conflict, and Oz´s very own J.K. Simmons agrees. Anyhow, this wasn´t a sports movie about a team, that´s why we don´t get to see and hate the rival orchestras.
This is a movie about a young man, a drummer striving for greatness, so we got to see and hate his very own competition within the band; although he is kind of his own worst enemy, and also kind of his best friend… he is a loner. The interesting thing about Teller´s character is that, unlike most sports movie protagonist, he has it all: talent (Unlike Rudy), a brain (unlike Sandler in The Waterboy), an amazing work ethic (unlike DiCaprio in The basketball diaries) and a good environment/social situation (Unlike Wahlberg in The Fighter). His main flaw was his extreme ambition, which is usually an attribute most common in villains. We root for him regardless of his “self-righteous little prick” attitude, which proves that anti-hero qualities are sometimes the most relatable ones, and that Teller´s likability would have made Baby Driver a better movie.
What makes whiplash the best non-sport sports movie of all time, and not just another non-sports sports movie (like Schindler´s list) are the little things. In a worse version of this film, Teller´s dead mother would appear in a flashback while he is thinking about quitting, and that would inspire him not to give up. Luckily for us, the dead mother remains where she should be, forgotten and unmentioned. Props to Chazelle, the director, for avoiding those cheap dramatic resources.
Moneyball made a baseball hater, Jonah Hill lover, like myself, care about a sport I have no interest in, and Whiplash does the same to people who don´t fancy jazz music, nor Miles Teller´s face. There´s merit in that.
Like any decent sport movie, Whiplash has a final showdown at the end, in what constitutes one of the most satisfying, bring it home movie endings of all time. It´s not at the level of Dirk Diggler´s dick revelation, but it´s still pretty awesome.
One of the other great non sport-sports movies, if not the greatest until Whiplash came along, is Gladiator. On the final scene at the Coliseum, in perfect epic movie fashion, Rusell Maximus Crowe, meets his nemesis, the Emperor, for a fight as historically accurate as the ending of Rocky IV. Joaquin Phoenix, just like J.K. Simmons in Whiplash, starts the final duel with the upper hand after a very unethical, evil and vindictive maneuver. And then, when everything seemed lost for the protagonists, Crowe and Teller managed to comeback, like in Hoosiers, Remember the Titans, Dodgeball, and any other sports movie ever made.
Now, how did Whiplash take the belt from Gladiator? Well, the love story tipped the balance for me. Crowe should have never hooked up with the sister of the Emperor in Galdiator, that was just wrong. Chazelle, on the other hand, deals with romance in a much smarter way and it makes all the difference. Again, when it comes down to greatness it´s all about the little things, like being able to differentiate rushing from dragging.