Holy crap. I was late to the party with the Whiplash movie and just saw it a few days ago. Honestly, the only reason I bothered to watch it was to watch J.K. Simmons’ performance. I had no idea how profound an effect this movie would have on me. It’s rare that movies connect with me emotionally, and Whiplash did this so strongly that I re-arranged my schedule for the next day to watch it a second time.
Whiplash is not about a mean music teacher. It’s about a young man who wants something so badly, he focuses 100% of his life on it, even to the point of shedding blood. I can’t tell you how much I relate to that, and how good it made me feel to watch this kid (played by Miles Teller) do all the things I do, and have done at various points in my life.
He puts up pictures on his wall of what he wants and looks at them often. Check.
He constantly listens to audio about what he wants. Check.
He focuses all of his free time working on what he wants. Check.
He avoids serious relationships with women, because he knows it will divert him from his goals. Check.
I did all that stuff. With the exception of the last one, I still do. The kid wants to be the greatest jazz drummer in the world. He thinks about drumming all the time. He watches drumming videos on his phone when he rides the bus. He sleeps next to his drums, gets up at 4am to practice, practices until his hands gush blood, puts on some band-aids, and practices some more. Because he wants it. Truly and fully. Normal people watching this probably thought it was weird, obsessive behavior. It made my heart sing.
So many good scenes in this movie. The scene where he’s on a date with a girl, and she tells him she has no real idea of what she wants to do with her life (which is most people) and he’s utterly confused as to how one could live like that. Driven, focused people really do live in a different world than most others.
He ends up in a relationship with her, but later cuts it off, because he knows she’ll be a distraction. In another fantastic scene, he says to her:
This is why I don’t think we should be together. I’ve thought about it a lot, and this is what is going to happen.
I’m going to keep pursuing what I’m pursuing and because I’m doing that, it’s going to take up more and more of my time, and I’m not going to be able to spend as much time with you. And when I do spend time with you, I’m going to be thinking about drumming. I’m going to be thinking about jazz music and my charts and all of that.
And because of that, you’re going to start to resent me, and you’re going to tell me to ease up on the drumming and spend more time with you because you’re not feeling important. And I’m not going to be able to do that. And really, I’m going to start resenting YOU for even asking me to stop drumming. And we’re just going to start to hate each other, and it’s going to be ugly. And so, for those reasons, I’d rather just break it off clean.
This hit home with me in so many ways, watching him give that speech. I’ve thought those very same things and have even said some of those things to women (and friends) in my past.
Because I was so dedicated to my financial goals, I never had a serious relationship with a woman until I was 25 years old, by choice. I had opportunities for that, but I turned them down. Since my divorce almost ten years ago, I’ve had offers from women to marry me or move in with me. I’ve turned most of those down too.
It’s not just about relationships either. I’ve turned down ultra-fantastic, job offers, dream jobs really, because of my dedication to my goals. I’ve turned down various opportunities like this, all throughout my life, things I wanted, but things I knew would pull me away from my dreams.
I’m older now and these days I’m much more relaxed about this stuff, but for a long time I was just like the kid in Whiplash.
There’s so much more to this movie than what I’ve described here. The dynamic of the charismatic but tyrannical and terrifying Alpha Male 1.0 music teacher is wonderful to behold. The ending of this movie is one of the best endings I’ve seen in a movie, ever.
Everyone should watch Whiplash because it’s a great film, but if you’re one of those few people who are dedicated to something you want in life with 100% focus, this was a film made specifically for you. You need to experience it.