Whiplash is a 2014 American drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle. The film stars Miles Teller, J. K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, and Melissa Benoist. The film depicts the relationship between an ambitious jazz student (Teller) and an aggressive, abusive instructor (Simmons).
Andrew Neiman is a first-year jazz student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York. He has been playing drums from a young age and aspires to become like Buddy Rich. Famed conductor Terence Fletcher discovers Andrew practicing in the music room and invites him into his studio band as the alternate for core drummer Carl Tanner. Fletcher is strict and abusive toward his students, mocking and insulting them; when the band rehearses the Hank Levy piece “Whiplash” and Andrew struggles to keep the tempo, Fletcher hurls a chair at him, slaps him and berates him in front of the class.
At a jazz competition, Andrew misplaces Carl’s sheet music. Since Carl cannot play without it, Andrew steps in, telling Fletcher that he can perform “Whiplash” from memory. After a successful performance, Fletcher promotes him to core drummer. Soon after, Fletcher recruits Ryan Connolly, the core drummer from Andrew’s former lower-level class. Andrew believes Connolly is the less proficient drummer and is infuriated when Fletcher promotes him to core. Determined to impress Fletcher, Andrew practices until his hands bleed and breaks up with his new girlfriend Nicole, believing she will hold him back. He endures a gruelling 2 A.M. tryout session with Fletcher and the other drummers in the class, in which Fletcher kicks furniture and screams at him, and earns back the core spot.
On the way to another competition, Andrew’s bus breaks down. He rents a car but arrives late and realizes he left his drumsticks at the rental office. After a dressing-down from Fletcher, Andrew races back to the rental office to retrieve the drumsticks, but his car is broadsided. He crawls from the wreckage, runs back to the theater and arrives on stage bloody and injured. When he struggles to play “Caravan” due to his injuries, Fletcher halts the performance to tell Andrew he is “done”. Enraged, Andrew attacks Fletcher in front of the audience and is dismissed from Shaffer Conservatory.
At his father’s request, Andrew meets a lawyer representing the parents of Sean Casey, a former student of Fletcher’s. Contrary to Fletcher’s previous claim that Sean had died in a car accident, the lawyer explains that Sean committed suicide, having suffered anxiety and depression during and after his time as Fletcher’s student. Sean’s parents want to prevent Fletcher from teaching again. Andrew agrees to testify on the condition of anonymity and Fletcher is fired.
Months later, Andrew has abandoned drumming and is working in a restaurant while applying to different colleges. He discovers Fletcher performing at a jazz club. After the performance, Fletcher invites Andrew to drink with him. He explains that he pushed his students beyond the expected so that they might achieve success and become like Louis Armstrong or Charlie Parker. Andrew accepts Fletcher’s invitation to replace the current drummer in his new band at the upcoming JVC Jazz Festival. He invites Nicole to the performance, but she is in a new relationship.
On stage, just before the performance begins, Fletcher reveals that he knows Andrew testified against him and leads the band with a piece Andrew does not know as revenge. Andrew leaves the stage humiliated as a result, and his father meets him backstage. However, instead of going home, he returns to the drum kit, begins playing “Caravan” and cues the band. As the piece ends and the lights go down, Andrew continues his own solo. Fletcher is taken aback but begins to guide Andrew. As the solo ends they share a smile and Fletcher cues the finale.