Grand Piano

Grand Piano (2013)

Plot: A pianist with stage fright endures a performance under the eyes of a mysterious sniper, who will shoot and kill him if a wrong note is played.

Review: When Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood), a once renowned and respected pianist who after choking while playing “La Cinquette”, a seemingly unplayable piece composed by his mentor, now retired is persuaded by his lovely and famous actress wife (Kerry Bishé) to come out of retirement for a tribute concert dedicated to his now late mentor. Battling his nerves when he begins to play in front of a packed audience, Tom finds a note written on his sheet music which reads “PLAY ONE WRONG NOTE AND YOU DIE.” He soon discovers that there is a mysterious villain lurking somewhere in the concert hall with a rifle and the only way Tom can save his and his wife’s life is by playing the piano like never before.

Elijah wood is quite good as Tom Selznick. Expressing inner turmoil in a subtle way is no easy task. Wood’s character, throughout the film, is trying to maintain a facade in front of everybody especially his wife that he’s fine when in fact he’s barely hanging by a thread and he showcases this quite competently. Wood deserves extreme praise when it comes to piano playing. He apparently spent three weeks with a teacher learning the piano and there are plenty of shots where one can clearly see it’s him playing especially one elegantly composed long takes where his technically demanding performance is on full display making the result applaud worthy.

John Cusack’s voice acting as the mysterious villain trying to puppeteer a flawless performance out of Wood’s character is aptly menacing.

Alex Winter as an usher of the theatre is wasted even though it’s nice seeing him here. Kerry Bishé as the doting wife of Tom exudes elegance but is also underutilized.

Writer Damien Chazelle has tried to keep the story grounded as much as he could without compromising on the thrill quotient and even though he only succeeds in spurts the effort to me is appreciative as high concept thrillers like this usually have a tendency to go overboard. Chazelle who followed this by gaining Academy Award nominations for writing Whiplash and La La Land both of which are centered around music and being a jazz drummer himself, his incorporation of music in the screenplay feels very authentic and interesting.

What stood out clearly for me was the direction of Eugenio Mira which I thought was excellent. I loved his creatively stunning blocking and staging of scenes. His dynamic direction elevates the writing considerably. Also being a composer himself, having notably composed the score of Time crimes (one of the best time travel films ever made according to me) I believe adds a certain value to his visual handling of the musical performances. It’s a crime that he hasn’t directed a feature film since.

Cinematographer Unax Mendia also deserves high praise for bringing the director’s vision to life in a striking manner via a combination of elegant camera movements and vivid colors.

The music by Victor Reyes is an odyssey of highs and lows of classical music variations accompanying the tension of the scenes adeptly.

Even though the motivations of the villain are a letdown as they are an outcome of a MacGuffin it doesn’t hamper the film too much. Grand Piano is a taut Hitchcockian thriller worth watching primarily to witness the craftsmanship of Eugenio Mira.

My Rating: 8/10

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