Finally saw Whiplash on Sunday night. I had the house to myself after doing an early-ish Easter dinner with Mrs. YHT’s family in northern Virginia, and I’d been meaning to watch the thing for ages, but this scathing piece by Sound Opinions host Jim DeRogatis was getting in the way. This wasn’t a Bob Dylan situation — you either love his voice or you hate it — DeRogatis’ thoughts punctured an acclaim bubble that had gotten huge, at least in terms of what I’d read and heard, and it complicated the idea of watching Whiplash. Should I consider this a guilty pleasure? Am I buying into something harmful?
Now that I’ve watched it, I believe the answers to those questions to be no and no, though I wasn’t so sure when Mrs. YHT called from her parents’ house to chat when I was about a third of the way through. Had the film continued on what seemed to be its likely trajectory — teacher yells, some students cower, this one steps up — I would have felt differently. And from a super zoomed-out perspective, that kind of is what happens, but it’s what happens along the way that keeps Whiplash from being exploitative or clichéd.
[Editor’s Note: Don’t want the movie’s plot spoiled? Stop reading now. And don’t listen to the song embedded at the bottom of this post.]