Grand Piano – Film Review

Ex-Hobbit Elijah Wood in a Hitchcockian game of cat and mouse

Elijah Wood plays a talented concert pianist whose career has been stalled by stage fright. The former Hobbit is Tom Selznick, hailed as the greatest of his generation and married to a Hollywood starlet (played by Kerry Bishe). After a recital of “the unplayable La Cinquette” went horribly wrong he’s been crippled by the fear of failure for five years (“Tom Selznick: the new Rakmanimoff. If only he didn’t choke,” deadpans Tom).

But he’s finally ready to reclaim his crown with a last shot at career redemption and return from the wilderness by performing some notoriously difficult pieces on his mentor’s priceless grand piano. But things are about to get a whole lot worse… Seated at his piano in front of an expectant crowd he opens his score, begins to play and then reads the chilling words: “Play one wrong note and you die.” At first suspecting a practical joke by a member of the orchestra he turns the page and plays on. But the next message reads: “Do you think I’m kidding? Look to your right…” The red dot of a sniper’s laser sight is targeting him but he must play on or be executed.

The stage is set for an enjoyably Hitchcockian game of cat and mouse playing out in real time as Damien ‘Whiplash’ Chazelle’s script sees Tom follow instructions in desperation to learn his fate and save his wife from being killed. Director Eugenio Mira conjures a too convenient plot device by having Tom return to his dressing room between movements under instructions from the would be assassin to insert an ear piece as their battling dialogue continues while Tom tinkles the ivories ever more intricately.

John Cusack is suitably menacing as the villain of the piece whose motives offer a neat twist as the suspense ramps. Grand Piano echoes Colin Farrell’s plight in another one act thriller. Think Shine meets Phone Booth. It’s a one trick pony but a stylishly orchestrated one.

Details

Director: Eugenio Mira
Release date: 19 Sep, 2014