Synopsis: Tom Selznick, the most talented pianist of his generation, stopped performing in public because of his stage fright. Years after a catastrophic performance, he reappears in public in a long-awaited concert in Chicago. In a packed theater, in front of the expectant audience, Tom finds a message written on the score: “Play one wrong note and you die.” Without leaving the piano, Tom must discover the anonymous sniper’s motives and look for help without anyone realizing…
Release Date: March 7, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Action
Elijah Wood seems to be trying to get the world to forget that he’s Frodo Baggins. Last year he played the title role in the gruesome remake of William Lustig’s Maniac. His production company, SpectreVision, has been pumping out horror films like
Grand Piano stars Wood as Tom Selznick, a virtuoso pianist who went into seclusion after an embarrassingly horrible performance five years earlier. With the help of his wife, Emma (Kerry Bishe from Argo) and his conductor friend, William (National Treasure‘s Don McManus), he is poised for a comeback concert. While preparing to go onstage, he finds a copy of the score for the piece he flubbed in his last performance shuffled in with his charts. Thinking it’s a bad joke from one of the other musicians in the orchestra, he tosses it aside, but when he sits down to play there is a message written in red ink on his music: “play one wrong note and you die.” He realizes that it is not an idle threat when he sees the red dot of a sniper’s laser scope dance across his sheet music. He is directed to an earpiece and, when he puts it in, he can communicate with his tormenter (played by John Cusack from The Raven). The sniper commands Tom to not only play the piece that he failed so miserably at in his last concert, a piano solo called “La Cinquette” (“The Impossible Piece”), but to play it perfectly, or he will shoot both him and his wife. Tom has to figure out who the man is and what he wants, all while flawlessly playing one of the most challenging pieces of piano music ever written.
Director Eugenio Mira (The Birthday) approaches Grand Piano almost like an action movie, and his vision works. The screenplay, written by Damien Chazelle (The Last Exorcism Part II), is tight and economical, never feeling drawn out despite its limited locations and concept. The story is derivative of Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth (which also seemed to influence last year’s Getaway), but the twist of having the victim on display in front of a packed audience of adoring fans raises the stakes exponentially. It’s the type of film that is not quite Hitchcockian, but could easily have been made by one of the Master of Suspense’s unabashed disciples such as Brian De Palma, David Fincher, or David Lynch.
At the center of Grand Piano is, of course, Elijah Wood. His performance is great; he goes from being meek and timid, lacking confidence after his character’s disastrous last attempt at playing the piece, to cunning and resourceful, doing what has to be done to save himself and his wife. He is a reluctant action hero, and an unlikely one seeing as how he is playing piano for most of his ordeal, but he pulls it off. And, speaking of playing piano, that guy’s hands can move.
One of the elements that makes Grand Piano such a captivating film is its cinematography. Director of photography Unax Mendia (BackWoods, The Hidden) uses plenty of long, highly choreographed and well blocked single take shots that remind the viewer the film is basically taking place in real time. The shots are extremely impressive, often involving dozens of actors and extras moving in front of or around the camera as it cranes in or out on its focal point. With everything that’s going on around the set, the production is almost like live theater, only with the viewer stuck right in the middle. There are also plenty of tight close-ups and macro photography shots to keep things from feeling too wide open. The stage on which Tom performs is lit with jarring red light, so the entire film has a purposeful crimson hue to it that evokes the look of blood…or hell. Between the primary colored lighting and the painstakingly detailed camera work, Grand Piano looks very much like one of the more surreal De Palma films, something along the lines of Phantom of the Paradise or Body Double. It’s a well shot film that tells a well crafted story.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Eugenio Mira
- Screenwriter(s): Damien Chazelle
- Cast: Elijah Wood (Tom Selznick)John Cusack (Clem)Kerry Bishe (Emma Selznick) Don McManus (Reisinger)
- Editor(s): Jose Luis Romeu
- Cinematographer: Unax Mendia
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Victor Reyes
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: