Review by Lisa Fremont
Grand Piano is a taut thriller starring Elijah Wood as Tom Selznick. Tom is the “brightest piano player of his generation” and he is about to do his first performance in five years. Tom is clearly on edge about this performance, but his wife Emma (Kerry Bishé) is working hard on keeping him focused. Emma is a movie star in her own right and tends to take attention away from Tom. Now, is this something that irritates Tom?
Well, it certainly irritates the man behind the rifle that is aimed at Tom’s forehead while he sits on stage in front of a full audience. Clem (John Cusack) is the voice of the sniper; almost his entire performance is through Tom’s earpiece. Having grown up with Cusack, his voice is like comfort food, but he still manages to sound threatening and unhinged when necessary.
Directed by Eugenio Mira, with a screenplay from Damien Chazelle, Grand Piano is a fun little piece of suspense. So, not horror per se, but I was on the edge of my seat and I could feel my heart rate increase; you know, the kind of physical and emotional response you like to get from horror, but this is a bit more on the Hitchcock side of things.
The movie looks beautiful with it’s stark black, white and red color scheme. Initially, it seemed far reaching that a movie taking place primarily on a stage, and more specifically focused on a piano player, could be engaging for an entire 90 minutes; thankfully, the deeper we get into the story, the more suspenseful it becomes. Plus, if you love classical music, the soundtrack is sublime. There were definitely some moments that felt a little too unrealistic, but they are minor enough to forgive. When the mystery of the “why” begins to unfold, it’s an interesting backstory and it’s fun to watch Tom figure things out and decide how he would like to react.
While some people will, surely, be irritated or let down by the ending, I found it to be perfect. Things wrapped up nicely and there were no loose threads, which is something that seems to be in short supply with movies these days. It was nice to sit down to a film that knows what it’s purpose and goal is and seems to delight in accomplishing it.