Whiplash – BLUE’S BEATS #21
Released in 2014, Whiplash stars Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons as a student and his unconventional band teacher. Damien Chazelle both wrote and directed the film, which was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay, at the 2015 Academy Awards. Whiplash went on to win three of the five, taking home statues for Best Supporting Actor for Simmons, Best Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.
You can read a PDF of the screenplay here.
“A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.”
We are introduced to the two primary characters almost immediately in the first scene, page 1. Andrew (Teller) is a bright, student drummer at an acclaimed music conservatory. He practices late into the night, unexpectedly interrupted by the film’s antagonist, Fletcher (Simmons).
“The MAN steps forward, removes his coat. He’s tall. Late fifties. Black T-shirt, black slacks, black shoes. We’ll know him as FLETCHER.” – page 1.
We are also introduced immediately to Andrew and Fletcher’s tumultuous relationship. Fletcher inspires hope within Andrew, hope that he may just be good enough to join Fletcher’s prestigious studio band. But, Fletcher quickly disappears without a word and Andrew’s hopes are dashed.
Andrew continues to practice his craft, playing as the backup drummer in the school’s junior jazz band. While speaking with his instructor one day, he is discouraged and considers transferring to a different school, page 9.
Fletcher requests a meeting with Andrew, page 12. The two discuss Andrew’s decision to transfer, and, though Fletcher seems to offer little advice one way or the other, Andrew is inspired to stay at the conservatory.
The inciting incident occurs on page 18. Fletcher visits the junior jazz band, looking for new recruits to join his studio band. He insults his way through the band until finally reaching the drums. Now is Andrew’s moment. Though Fletcher seems to dismiss him, upon leaving he requests Andrew join him in studio band.
PLOT POINT ONE
Page 26, Andrew sits in with the studio band, witnessing Fletcher more or less abuse a hapless trombone player. The band breaks, and Fletcher pulls Andrew aside for a pep talk. All seems well and, when the band regroups, Andrew is instilled with confidence. Page 29, Andrew gets the opportunity to prove himself, but his confidence is quickly broken when Fletcher becomes violently angry for his not knowing if he’s rushing or dragging, a confrontation that ultimately ends with Fletcher hurling a chair at Andrew and both physically and mentally abusing Andrew. Fletcher’s true colors have been revealed.
“This is a new Fletcher we’re seeing. An animal. But no one but Andrew seems surprised –“
At the first band competition, Fletcher warns the band of what is at stake; both his and the conservatory’s reputations. After losing the sheet music, Andrew is given a shot at redemption when he tells Fletcher he can play the music from memory, page 45.
PLOT POINT TWO
Andrew saves the day at the first competition, but Fletcher makes him earn his place in the band. He travels by bus to a crucial competition, but is delayed when the bus blows a tire. Running late, he makes it as far as he can and must rent a car. He reaches the venue just in time, but realizes that he forgot his drumsticks at the rental agency. Fletcher is furious. Determined as ever, Andrew goes back for his sticks, but is in a serious accident on the way back. This doesn’t stop him as he runs back to the venue and goes on stage, battered and bloodied. But, his hand is injured and he can’t play, embarrassing Fletcher and the band. Fletcher tells Andrew that he is done, causing Andrew to lose it and tackle Fletcher, page 76.
CRISIS AND CLIMAX
Andrew learns that he has been dismissed from the conservatory for assaulting Fletcher. Details come to light that a past student committed suicide after Fletcher’s abusive teaching, causing Andrew to pursue pressing charges.
Later, Andrew runs into Fletcher at a jazz bar and learns that he was fired from the conservatory, page 85. All seems well and Fletcher invites Andrew to play in an upcoming concert with him.
At the concert, Fletcher tells them how important an opportunity it is, reflecting back to his speech at Andrew’s first concert with Fletcher. But, right before going on stage, Fletcher pulls Andrew aside and tells him he knows Andrew is responsible for him being fired, page 96. Fletcher has planned all along to embarrass Andrew, ready to play a song that Andrew doesn’t know. After a catastrophe of an attempt, Andrew gets up to leave, the audience sitting in stunned silence. Yet, he remains determined and returns to the drums, taking control from Fletcher and playing to the best of his ability.
Having wrested control from Fletcher, Andrew continues to play, and play, and play. He made a choice to be great, and there is a new found respect built between him and Fletcher. The band plays out the film and a crash of the symbols cuts to black.