Whiplash is a 2014 American independent psychological drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle, and starring Miles Teller, J. K. Simmons, Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist. The film follows the ambitious music student and jazz drummer Andrew Neiman (Teller), who is pushed to his limit by his abusive instructor Terence Fletcher (Simmons) at the fictitious Shaffer Conservatory in New York City.
The film was produced by Bold Films, Blumhouse Productions, and Right of Way Films. Sony Pictures acquired distribution rights for most of the world, releasing the film under its Sony Pictures Classics and Stage 6 Films banners for its North American and international releases, respectively. Chazelle finished writing the script in 2013, drawing upon his experiences in a "very competitive" jazz band in high school. Soon after, Right of Way Films and Blumhouse Productions helped Chazelle turn 15 pages of the script into an 18-minute short film, also titled Whiplash. The short film received acclaim after debuting at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, which attracted investors to produce the complete version of the script. Filming took place in September 2013 throughout Los Angeles in the course of 20 days. The film explores concepts of perfectionism, dedication, and success and deconstructs the concept of ambition.
Whiplash premiered in competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 16, 2014, as the festival's opening film; it won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize for drama. The film opened in limited release domestically in the United States and Canada on October 10, 2014, gradually expanding to over 500 screens and finally closing on March 26, 2015. The film received widespread acclaim for its screenplay, direction, film editing, sound mixing, and Teller's and Simmons' performances, and grossed $49 million on a $3.3 million budget, making it Chazelle's highest grossing feature until the release of La La Land (2016). The film received multiple awards and nominations, winning Academy Awards for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing, and also being nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. Simmons' portrayal of Fletcher won him the Academy, BAFTA, Critics' Choice, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for Best Supporting Actor.
Plot: Andrew Neiman is a first-year student and jazz drummer at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York City, hoping one day to leave a legacy like that of his childhood idol, jazz drummer Buddy Rich. Terence Fletcher, the conductor of the Shaffer Conservatory Studio Band, recruits him to play in the Studio ensemble as an alternate for core drummer Carl Tanner. Andrew quickly discovers that Fletcher is relentlessly strict, emotionally manipulative, and abusive to his students; he slaps and berates Andrew when he fails to keep tempo during the ensemble's rehearsal of Hank Levy's titular piece, "Whiplash."
Determined to impress Fletcher, Andrew intensifies his drum practicing. After their first set at a jazz competition, Andrew misplaces Tanner's sheet music. Since Tanner cannot play without the sheets, Andrew replaces him for the next set. After a successful performance of "Whiplash," Fletcher promotes Andrew to the core drummer. However, Andrew is taken aback when Fletcher abruptly gives the position to Ryan Connolly, a drummer from a lower-level ensemble within Shaffer. Because of his single-mindedness toward music, Andrew's relationship with his family deteriorates, and he breaks up with his girlfriend, Nicole, to focus on his ambitions. After a grueling five-hour practice session with Tanner and Connolly on "Caravan," Andrew earns back the core position.
On the way to the next competition, Andrew's bus breaks down. He rents a car but arrives late and forgets his sticks at the rental office. After convincing an impatient Fletcher to wait for him, Andrew races back and retrieves them, but is hit by a truck on the way back. Andrew crawls from the wreckage and runs to the theater, arriving just as the ensemble enters the stage. Heavily injured, he struggles to play "Caravan," and Fletcher halts the performance to dismiss him from the band. Enraged, Andrew attacks Fletcher onstage but is pulled away by security and expelled from Shaffer.
At his father's request, Andrew meets a lawyer representing the parents of Sean Casey, a former student of Fletcher's. He learns that Casey hanged himself due to depression and anxiety caused by Fletcher's abuse. Casey's parents want Fletcher held accountable, and Andrew agrees to testify anonymously, leading Shaffer to terminate Fletcher. Andrew subsequently abandons drumming.
Months later, Andrew encounters Fletcher playing piano at a jazz club. Over a drink, Fletcher admits his teaching methods were harsh but argues they were necessary to motivate his students to become successful, citing Charlie Parker's rise to fame as an example. He invites Andrew to perform with his band at the JVC Jazz Festival, assuring him that the songs will be the same ones played by the Studio Band; Andrew hesitantly accepts. Andrew invites Nicole to the performance but finds out she is in a new relationship.
Onstage at JVC, before the first piece, Fletcher reveals that he knows Andrew testified against him. As revenge, Fletcher leads the band into a song Andrew does not know and does not have the sheet music to. After a disastrous performance, Andrew walks offstage humiliated but returns and cuts off Fletcher's introduction to the next piece by playing the intro to "Caravan", cueing the band himself. Initially angered, Fletcher resumes conducting. As the piece finishes, Andrew continues into an extended, unexpected solo. Impressed, Fletcher nods in approval before cueing the finale.