Elijah Wood has undergone quite the career facelift since leaving The Shire. He’s played a psychotic serial killer that is obsessed with mannequins, a depressed dude who spends his time hanging out and talking to his neighbors dog and now a concert pianist (albeit one playing a concert under the threat of death if he plays a wrong note). GRAND PIANO is a film conceived by someone obsessed with fine art, saw and loved PHONE BOOTH and always dreamed of mimicking Alfred Hitchcock. In more ways than not that combination is often extremely entertaining.
The film takes place over the course of one live concert in which Wood plays Tom Selznick, a concert pianist coming out of retirement after a disastrous final performance. With his wife, Emma (Kerry Bishe), in attendance Tom intends to wipe everyone’s memory of his past flub by playing a truly memorable performance. As he begins playing though he finds that an unknown audience member has written threats on his music sheets telling him if he plays one wrong note he dies- and if he tries to alert anyone he will kill Emma. The unknown killer (voiced by John Cusack) also manages to slip an earpiece to Tom to communicate throughout the course of the performance.
Director Eugenio Mira really makes a name for himself here. GRAND PIANO might not be a classic in the making, but it showcases the skills of a filmmaker to watch out for. The camera work and scene transitions are marks of someone with an intense love of cinema and of psychological thrillers. Every scene is staged incredibly and while the twists and overall threat of the film are silly to say the least, they make for an immensely watchable thriller that’s as fun as it is preposterous.
The music of GRAND PIANO is something else that rounds out this well crafted thriller. The opening credits really set the mood for the film as the score is incredibly dark and moody, which doesn’t quite jive with some of the silly elements, but gives the film a defined personality. The piano pieces are just as enjoyable as the rest of the music even if you would never lump yourself into classical music fan category.
The acting leaves a little to be desired, but only during some of the more ridiculous moments- or at least in the mostly useless side characters. Elijah Wood is solid and his back and forths with John Cusack over the phone are very engaging- it’s what gives the film the PHONE BOOTH vibe.
GRAND PIANO has the makings of a classic, but in the cult sense. It’s extremely well crafted, but falls prey to some really silly plotting and weak side characters. Eugenio Mira establishes himself as a name to watch in the future with his sometimes mesmerizing camera shots and transitions. Silliness and minor flaws aside, GRAND PIANO is a thriller well worth seeking out and dragging along as many friends as possible.