Written by: Damien Chazelle
Directed by: Eugenio Mira
Grand Piano is a thriller that Hitchcock himself would be making it he was still making movies to this day. Now, I’m not saying that this film is anywhere near Hitchcock’s signature films, but Grand Piano is a satisfying old-school thriller that keeps you on the edge of the seat. That’s not to say that this film is perfect, however, especially since this movie does little to separate itself from these other older films.
Elijah Wood, an actor who has slowly won me over with some brilliant performances as of recently, portrays a famous concert pianist who has been retired for the past five years because of his stage fright, and decides to make his comeback performance. Unfortunately for him, there is a mysterious figure that informs him that one wrong note will result in him and his girlfriend ending up with a bullet in their head. Who is the person that is doing this? And why is he doing it?
Great Lead Performance. Whether this film succeeds or fails is largely based upon Elijah Wood’s performance, especially considering that about 98% of Grand Piano is spent following the main character. The role is a complex one, as his character is forced to play the piano while a gun is aimed on the girl he loves and his character has to pretend that nothing is wrong, It requires a certain subtlety, in which he has to respond in a way that it is conveyed to the audience that he’s terrified, while at the same time needing to trick the crowd of on-lookers at his show. I hope that Wood’s keeps on choosing these interesting kinds of roles, because he is on a good roll as of lately.
Masterful Use of Tension & Suspense. Alfred Hitchcock was the master of suspense. He could make the simple act of somebody answering the phone and make it full of dramatic tension. The director of Grand Piano, Eugenio Mira, and the cinematography go hand-in-hand along with the music in creating a terrible sense of dread and suspense. Hitchcock would have appreciated the isolated location and the fact that the viewer is gripping the edge of their seats the entire film. This film perfectly puts you into the main characters situation, and makes the simple act of playing the piano terrifying.
Perfect Length. To many films pad the length of their screen time, especially when it comes to Judd Apatow comedies, but Grand Piano knows what kind of movie it is and the result is a film that is the perfect length. There are also no unnecessary scenes and it is edited tightly, leading to a film that moves at a brisk pace and is over before the concept ever wears thin.
Not An Original Concept. There have been plenty of movies in which a mysterious figure forces the antagonist to do something, or face the consequences of death. One movie that comes to mind is Phone Booth, which had to do with a psychopath who forces a person to stay in the same spot or face death, and just like in this film the villain is rarely shown except for the sound of his voice. There was very little to separate this film from other ones like it, but that’s not saying that this movie still wasn’t well made and effective, which it was.
Could Have Added More Mystery. John Cusack, who plays the main villain, is for most of the movie just the voice on the other end of a speaker. The reason why he is tormenting the main character is at first unclear and as the movie continues it is eventually revealed what his motivation was, but there was something missing. It would have made the movie more interesting if they had built up the mystery more, in a way so that when the reasoning was revealed the audience would have been more surprised by it. As the movie currently stands, I did not find the reveal to be that surprising.
Lack Of On-Screen Violence. For a thriller that was rated R, there was a great deal of restraint in actually showing any on-screen violence, and there was especially one scene in the movie where a woman was killed with a large piece of glass that could have been bloody and gruesome. Besides some small amounts of cursing, there was almost no reason why this couldn’t have been rated PG-13. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a movie like this, considering the fact that it is more of a reserved old-school thriller than a bloody horror movie. That doesn’t mean, however, that every time a character is murdered that the camera needs to cut away from it.
If you miss the old days of Alfred Hitchcock and his slow and methodical use of tension and suspense, then Grand Piano is a movie that is definitely worth checking out. If you are a fan of the more action-packed Hollywood thrillers of today, you might just find this slow and not something that you are interested in watching. The cinematography, directing and acting is spectacular in this film and succeeds in providing a suspenseful situation that is over at just the perfect time, without having any unnecessary scenes.
I was definitely entertained by this film and if the concept interests you I would recommend you checking it out. Elijah Wood continues to pick interesting roles post-Lord of the Rings, and if he continues down this road he might quickly become one of my favorite genre actors. Grand Piano flirts with greatness, but there is something that seemed missing that prevents this film from becoming a classic. Grand Piano is definitely worth checking out, just don’t expect something that you haven’t seen before.