Whiplash (2014), written by Damien Chazelle, garnered favorable reviews after it’s release almost a decade ago. Let’s analyze the screenplay.
- Draft Read: Pink (9/10/2013)
- Type: Shooting
- Page Count: 114
- Reading Speed: Medium
- Setting(s): NYC
- Plot Structure: Linear, Spanning multiple months
- Genre(s): Coming-of-Age
- Theme(s): Perfecting a craft (drumming), Emotional abuse, Physical abuse, Pompousness, Music
- Protagonist Change: Significant
I hate the arrogance, pompousness, and absurdity of this script and the messages that it conveys. I despise the fact that the writer used the word genteel in a sentence. I hate the subject matter. I can’t stand the tone.
But, let’s be honest: It’s a great script. It’s tight, albeit formulaic. It’s about pushing hard, crashing, and then still pushing hard. It has a certain style and arrogance. It appeals to the elites; because only a country-clubber since birth, or those that look up to that lifestyle, could truly emphasize with the protagonist’s struggle.
This script has probably been analyzed more than any other in the past decade, so I don’t feel the need to spend any length of time on it.
A drummer wants to become a great and feels like he has no support. That’s the whole plot.
There are only two characters that matter: Andrew Neiman, a young drummer trying to become great, and Terence Fletcher, his teacher who uses a sadistic combination of negative reinforcement and both positive and negative punishment to get the best out of his students. Fletcher is truly a great villain.
Dialogue & Pacing
Dialogue is strong. There truly aren’t any lines wasted.
Pacing is quick, yet formulaic. Most of the script is spent in high-pressure intense situations, so there aren’t really any slow parts. Even the low-pressure subplots, such as Andrew talking to a girl, are high-pressure due to Andrew’s obvious social awkwardness and our hope that he will see the light and quit drumming, thereby freeing himself from his abuser. The overflowing of conflict and cringyness is a brilliant way of keeping the pace moving forward.
If you’ve ever pushed a passion to the extreme, and gone far beyond obsessive in an attempt to become the greatest of all time, this script will resonate with you. If you are like 90% of the rest of the world, where you have to work hard and have little time for your craft or hobbies, I don’t think it will have to same impact.
Best Part of The Script
The writer does an excellent job of turning Fletcher into a repulsive villain. Of course, most people would simply quit on a teacher like Fletcher, but because the protagonist is a slave to his passion, he puts up with him, which allows the writer to push the abuse to the extreme. Start on Page 30 to see how it’s expertly done.