Does the End Justify the Means? How Far Would You Go?

Finally got around to looking at the movie “Whiplash”. I didn’t read any reviews before so I was pleasantly surprised that it was about jazz and the musicians who choose to pursue this musical genre to claim greatness.

J.J.Duncan describes what the movie is about in his post ‘6 Deep Thoughts About Whiplash’:

At the heart of Whiplash is a story about a very messed up codependent relationship. Dubbed “Full Metal Julliard” at its Sundance premiere, the movie finds Miles Teller trying to rise through the ranks at a prestigious music school under the tutelage of a sadistic teacher played by  J.K. Simmons. Writer and director Damien Chazelle drew heavily from his own experience as a drummer in making the movie, right down to the dominating teacher.

Whiplash is one of those movies where it sounds like it’s going to be boring, but it turns out to be electrifying. You can’t look away. And you can’t help but put yourself into the movie, wishing you could make decisions for this kid who lets his whole life be dominated by this one maniac. It was the kind of movie that left a lot for us to think about, so let’s dive into some of those thoughts.

I agree with J.J. From start to finish I couldn’t stop watching. I didn’t know where the movie was going but I had to see it to the end.

Andrew, (Miles Teller) eats and sleeps jazz. He is prepared to do whatever it takes to be one of the great jazz drummers. He worships jazz legend, Buddy Rich.

Watch the video and see just how fast Buddy plays.

Andrew practices and practices to get up to Buddy’s speed. He has all the components needed to keep his burning desire aflame. He has posters, he has Rich’s music. Andrew has a definite purpose and he’s not willing to let anything get in the way of his pursuit of his goal. He tells his girlfriend that he is breaking up with her because he has to spend more time practicing and she’s going to resent him eventually for it, “so it’s best to part ways now.” En route to a performance the bus he’s on gets a flat. He pulls out all the stops – rents a car – and at top speed, makes it on time. Except he forgets his sticks in the car. Returns for the sticks and while driving back to the venue, gets hit by a truck. You’d think that would deter him. But bloodied and banged up he finds his way to the stage. But it’s impossible. Despite all efforts, he is unable to play and is asked by Fletcher (J.K.Simmons) to leave.

Miles Teller plays Andrew Neiman and J.K. Simmons plays Terence Fletcher in 'Whiplash.'  Sony Pictures Classics
Miles Teller plays Andrew Neiman and J.K. Simmons plays Terence Fletcher in ‘Whiplash.’ Sony Pictures Classics

It’s a movie. The writer and director is allowed creative latitude. I don’t want to review the movie. You look at it and decide for yourself whether you like it or not. One thing I’m sure of – it will get you thinking. This is what surfaced for me:

What drives us?

  1. Is it the deep desire and love alone that would do it?
  2. Do we actually have to care about what we’re going after or  are we driven sometimes to be the best for the sake of being the best?
  3. Do we need support and encouragement, or does someone rubbing us the wrong way provide a greater leverage to prove them wrong?
  4. Do we do it for ourselves, or do we care more about getting someone’s approval?

Every person will have a different combination of what needs to be present and planted in order that they reach their goals.

I’ve found out that I work best with a challenge. I love figuring out process and have been doing that every minute of every day for as far back as I can remember. Whether I was investigating coral reefs, or streams, scientific methods or music, where I was going and what would I eventually be known for. And I know for a fact, that if someone tells me I can’t, they’ve just provided me with fuel to show them that “I can!”

You have to figure out what things drive you.

I’m convinced that Andrew loved the music. He wanted to be great. He was thirsty for recognition. He needed his father’s respect. He wanted his teacher’s approval, yet in the end, he reached to a place where he no longer needed to be told what to do. He took charge and showed the audience at Carnegie Hall, all that he was capable of. He unlocked his own potential!

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