A Review of the Movie ‘Whiplash’ by Someone Who Watched It on a Plane with No Headphones
Spoiler: It's about a drum competition or something.
For many reasons, I do not get out to movie theaters much, primarily because it might lead to interacting with another human being. Sure, with modern conveniences, I can purchase tickets online and pick them up from a machine, potentially eliminating any person-to-person contact and creating a human-free movie-going experience, but still, I can’t take that chance. What if I have to sit next to another person and hear their commentary on the movie? What if, on the way out, someone tries to strike up a conversation about what I thought of the plot? Frankly, it’s not worth the risk. That’s why I only allow for movie-watching experiences in two forms: Netflix in the privacy of my own goddamn home, and in-flight entertainment.
I was recently provided an opportunity for the latter on a transcontinental flight. But I made one fatal mistake. I left my headphones in my backpack, which was stored in the overhead bin. “Why didn’t you just get up and get them?” you might be asking. Great question! I would’ve loved to have done this but because I am an idiot, I didn’t check in to my flight beforehand and as a result, sat in what I shall to refer to it for the rest of this article as the Garbage Pit Seat. Garbage Pit Seat was right in the middle of the row. To my right, in the window seat, was a man with an Affliction shirt who covered up his stale creamy soup-like BO with what was, in my estimation, 400 gallons of AXE body spray. On my left, the aisle seat, was a very large man in a wheelchair. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been on a flight with a wheelchaired passenger sitting in coach, but basically, the flight crew lets them on last, wheels them down the aisle in a special narrow wheelchair, lifts them up, and ungracefully dumps them into their chair.
I want to be clear that I’m not unsympathetic to the handicapped. It wasn’t this guy’s fault he was in a wheelchair (unless he got that way after being shot in a blaze of gunfire while trying to rob a puppy rescue shelter, in which case, fuck that guy.) But I’m just outlining the arrangement here—between me and freedom to move about the cabin was a heavyset, incapacitated gentleman on the end of my aisle, sealing me into my tomblike chair that smelled like farts for the entire flight.
Upon takeoff, both of my rowmates enjoyed a rousing game of Who Can Manspread the Widest and then immediately fell asleep for the entire flight, the kind of deep slumber where your drooling face starts to wilt onto the shoulder next to you (that’s me!). So this was the situation I had on my hands for the next six hours, stuck in a fixed position between a rock and a hard place that smells like Vin Diesel’s post-gym taint. The way I saw it, I had two options: I could sit there motionless in the Garbage Pit Seat, cursing humanity and secretly wishing for the plane to crash into a mountain, or I could watch in-flight movies in silence. So Option B it was.
From all the movies available, I’m not sure why I chose Whiplash. I think maybe it was because its runtime was longer than a lot of the other choices and I figured the longer I was watching a movie, the less time I’d spend fantasizing about my own fiery death.
For the next 107 minutes, I sat completely still, hurling across the United States at 600 mph in a giant metal tube, watching a critically acclaimed movie where I couldn’t hear anything. Here is my recap of that experience. I’ll throw a spoiler warning on it even though I don’t have words to spoil and probably got the whole plot wrong anyway.
Whiplash starts off with two people: J. Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man and some kid I’ve never seen before. From here on, I will call him Drum Kid because he drums a lot.
From what I can tell from the first few minutes, Whiplash is a movie about a kid who goes to some special school for band geeks, where being in band class is cool for some reason. I guess Whiplash is fictional.
Jameson is a hardass music conductor and a perfectionist and people are terrified of him even though he dresses like Simon Cowell from American Idol. Drum Kid is a wannabe drummer whose face looks like a slice of bologna. If openly snoring is a tacit sign of agreement, AXE Body Spray Guy concurs with my character assessment.
Look at it. Look at his face.
The only other character in this movie is Paul Reiser. I’m still not sure what Drum Kid’s relationship with Paul Reiser is but he seems to spend a lot of time at the movies with him. Is Paul Reiser playing himself? If so, why does this college kid hang out with comedian and former sitcom actor Paul Reiser all the time?
Remember 'Mad About You?' I was on that show. Now sprinkle some Raisinettes on my popcorn because I am a disgusting trash monster.
Right away, shit between Jameson and Drum Kid gets pretty intense. Drum Kid’s trying to drum to Jameson’s liking but Jameson is hurling drums at his head and slapping him around and I gotta ask, what the fuck kind of band class is this?
Even though I have no idea what he’s saying, I’ve got to believe that Jameson is acting the everloving shit out of this role. I can tell because every scene he’s not in is utterly boring, even by silent film standards. Also, his face looks like a turtle when he’s angry.
God I wish I could hear this movie.
I get the feeling that Jameson is sarcastic a lot, and that I wouldn’t like the sound of Drum Kid’s voice, because when I look at his goddamn face, I understand why Jameson loves slapping it so damn much. I would love to hear the slaps. They would give me so much satisfaction in my soul. But I guess, despite the bland nature of his facial features, Drum Kid is pretty good at drumming. Couldn’t tell you.
Resting turtle face.
I also get the feeling that Jameson definitely says “fuck” a lot. I can’t read lips but I can distinctly make out when an F-bomb is being dropped. Which is a bummer because I keep wondering if this is one of those versions where they replace all the curses with TV-friendly words like “fudging” and “mother flipping.” I prefer those to the originals.
Drum Kid and Paul Reiser seem to have some sort of arrangement worked out where they meet for afternoon movies. I start to wonder if maybe this is some Craigslist casual encounters thing and they’re giving each other handjobs in the theater. All this does is remind me of how much I hate going to the movies. Everybody chews loudly and yells comments at the screen and manually pleasures famous 90s TV actors. I start to think that maybe Reiser is not a Craigslist hookup, though, because Drum Kid keeps making eyes with the girl working the concession stand who I will call Popcorn Girl. To recap, I’m watching a movie I can’t hear about other people going to the movies, which I also can’t hear.
God I can’t stand Drum Kid’s face. Not helping is the fact that whenever they zoom in on his face while he’s drumming, without the aid of sound, it looks exactly like he’s jacking off and if AXE Body Spray Guy or Aisle Guy were awake they might be curious as to why the guy next to them is watching a movie about a kid furiously masturbating while J. Jonah Jameson watches on intently. Fortunately they are both asleep and I’m going to die here between them.
Drum Kid seems to be competing for the first chair spot with another mopeface drummer. At a recital, Drum Kid loses Competitor Guy’s sheet music—not sure why they didn’t have backups—and becomes the default Head Drum Guy. Eat shit, Competitor Guy.
Now Drum Kid is eating dinner with Paul Reiser and what I’m guessing is his family. So I guess maybe Paul Reiser was his dad the whole time? Ohhhh OK that makes a lot more sense now that I think about it.
God this is frustrating. They say when a person is deaf, their other senses are heightened. Are deaf people just angry and frustrated like this all the time? Do they have to constantly smell the acute, headache-inducing fragrance of AXE? If so, we should do a lot more to help the deaf in this country.
It looked like everything was going well for Drum Kid, but then Jameson brought in some new smiley all-American drummer and Drum Kid is all like, “Who’s this Channing Tatum-looking mother fucker right here?”
What are you smiling at, bro?
Drum Kid must’ve been so upset about this that he went out and dumped Popcorn Girl and she stormed out of the diner. Well, it was nice knowing her for half a scene.
Suddenly, the captain makes an announcement that we’re hitting some turbulence. This is it. Sweet, lovely death. But also, I’m sort of curious to see how this thing ends. The movie, I mean, not life.
Back to the movie. Jameson is rotating three drummers right now. There are like, 20 other people in this band who are just in the shadows the whole time and no one seems to care who they are. So Jameson keeps the three drummers in the studio auditioning until two in the morning until they’re all sweaty and bloody and making their jack off faces and I’m just realizing now that there are some serious homoerotic undertones in this movie.
The band is playing some concert upstate or something and Drum Kid is late because his bus broke down. I have no idea why the band didn’t all drive up there together. Anyway, he rents a car and HOLY SHIT A HUGE TRUCK NAILS HIM FROM THE SIDE! So far that’s the only cool thing that’s happened in this movie. Sixty straight minutes of a guy’s face while he’s drumming and then one sweet shot of car wreck. Drum Kid is bloody and beaten up but runs off to go drum because a whole minute almost went by in this movie without a close up of someone drumming. Drum Kid fucks up the performance on account of him getting hit by a car and missing half of his skull.
Aisle Guy wakes up and needs to use the bathroom. While he’s in the can, the flight attendant tells me that if I want to get up, I’d better do it now. At this point I can finally get my headphones. But instead I say, you know what? Fuck it. I’ve made it this far into this movie without knowing what’s going on, I’m gonna ride this whole thing out. I give myself a little pat on the back as this is the longest I’ve ever committed to anything in my life.
By now, it looks like Drum Kid has given up his dream of drumming to spend more time watching movies with his dad, Paul Reiser. A few months go by and one night after spending some quality movie time with Paul Reiser, he’s walking by a jazz club and a sandwich board out front says “Terence Fletcher” on it and Jameson is playing piano inside. That was Jameson’s name this whole time? Fletcher? Who has ever been intimidated by someone named Fletcher? The whole plot goes out the plane window which is where I wish I was at the moment. The two share a long scene where they just talk and I have no clue what the fuck is going on and I never thought I’d say this but I think I’d like to see more drumming.
The final scene is a big performance in a theater but something is wrong. Drum Kid has the wrong sheet music. Oh no I think Jameson (I’m not calling him Terence) totally fucked him over for some reason. Drum Kid storms out and hugs Paul Reiser like so many of us have wanted to do when we’re upset. Then he turns around, marches back on stage, and does a drum solo for what must be 90 minutes. Drum Kid, not Paul Reiser, I mean. Although that’d be a sweet plot twist—that Paul Reiser is the world’s greatest drummer. Anyway, Jameson’s trying to get him to stop drumming and he’s all “nah brah.” And man, I wish there was sound because it looks like he’s jacking off in front of an auditorium full of people.
I love you, Drum Kid, you are like my son but I am too much of a mean man to tell you with my words.
I just realized this movie is almost over and I’ve had no clue what kind of music they’ve been playing this whole time. I’m guessing it’s some sort of jazz since they have all these cool guys with fedoras playing the trumpet.
Anyway, Jameson and Drum Kid have this intense on-stage conductor-drummer battle/jack off face scene and then it just ends on drumming which I guess I should’ve seen coming. I sit there for the rest of the flight and contemplate mortality and how I’ll never be a good drummer.
Conclusion: Whiplash was a very nice drum sex movie. On the flight home I remembered my headphones and watched Birdman. I heard every word of dialogue in that movie and still didn’t get what the fuck was going on.
Dan Ozzi is on Twitter, angrily tweeting at airlines to give him free frequent flyer miles for bad flights - @danozzi