From the new issue: Erika Schmidt on Whiplash (2014):
“When Andrew finally triumphs at the end of Whiplash, the experience is between him and his teacher as much as it is between him and his music. While it’s beyond satisfying to see him mouth, “Fuck you” to Fletcher as he goes off book, it’s a bit of a shame to know that this moment is as much about confronting a charismatic bully as it is about achieving an artistic breakthrough. Andrew’s performance is revelatory, but we’re certainly not seeing an adult mastering his craft. It’s hard not to wonder what happens next. Where does Andrew go from here, after focusing all of his passion through the lens of a monster?
Let me be clear. I don’t believe that pursuing life as an artist should always be easy. It is categorically not so. I understand Andrew’s impulses: to focus relentlessly on getting better, even at the cost of other parts of his life, to beat himself up, to shrug off the comfort repeatedly offered by his father (Paul Reiser). It is hard to be an artist of any kind, and you constantly have to make yourself do things that frighten you; it doesn’t help to have a parent hovering with a warm blanket, tempting you to choose a smoother road. That can be as useless as a slap in the face, because it’s not helping you learn how to function in the world you’ve chosen. Discomfort is part of it. Fear is part of it. You have to learn to live with those things. But I know now, over a decade after I let that first teacher scare me out of acting class, that there is a difference between a pursuit being extremely difficult and a teacher making a student’s life hell.”