Stay, thou art so beautiful: A review of, and rumination on, Whiplash


I was enrolled in a RISD drawing class last semester. The professor had told me that Brown students in his course usually dropped out by midway through the semester; he described it as a sort of drawing boot camp. I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember, and while I wouldn’t say I’m particularly talented, it’s peculiar how lost I can get in the work; hours might go by while I’m working on a few details, and I’d be none the wiser. I figured that I ought to take advantage of RISD being right down the hill, and signed up for this apparently brutal slog as a fifth class. I love drawing, after all.

I dropped the class in mid-October. I regret it. J.K. Simmons’ character in Whiplash, Terence Fletcher, would say that I just “don’t have it.”

The film follows 19 year-old Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) as he studies under Fletcher at Schaffer Music conservatory in New York City, the most prestigious music school in the country. Andrew wants to ascend to the heights of the all-time great jazz drummers, like Buddy Rich, and Fletcher’s ambition is to mold the next great jazz musician, a new Charlie Parker, by whatever means can forge such a talent. Fletcher takes Andrew under his tutelage, to the latter’s initial delight, but the consequences of Fletcher’s drive soon become apparent.

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