Grand Piano (2013)

grandpiano00Holy crap will I be recommending this to people tomorrow!  And real people, not the imaginary ones that visit this blog.  You can nitpick this to death, and many already have, or you can just accept it as some great, fun entertainment.

Elijah Wood is Tom Selznick, a concert pianist whose career has been derailed by stage-fright since making a mistake in a complex piece five years ago.  Apparently these classical music dweebs hold grudges like a Muslim.

Finally his wife has has persuaded him to make a comeback.  As he is playing from the sheet music, he begins to see arrows and notes.  He has also been provided with an earpiece that enables him to speak to his tormenter.  A man with a laser-sighted rifle will kill his wife if he does not play every note in the same complex piece correctly tonight.

grandpiano01At this point, it is much like Phone Booth, but better.  Or Season 1 of 24, but worse. Great as Grand Piano is, nobody puts Jack Bauer in a corner.

Much has been written about Grand Piano as being being in the vein of Hitchcock and DePalma (although I’m not sure what represents DePalma except maybe a split screen shot).  It is hard to mistake the Hitchcockian elements — a man in over his head, a timeless theater set, paranoia, inventive camera angles, classical score.  I think either one of them would have been proud of how this shot plays out:


Must see to appreciate.

The great cast features Allen Leech, Tom Branson from Downton Abbey (who was a little bit of a distraction as he really resembles Samwise Gamgee sitting in the audience).  Don McManus is as over-the-top as you would imagine a great conductor to be (or Don McManus to be, for that matter).  It is nice to see Alex Winter (who was either Bill or Ted and made the underrated Freaked) as a conspirator.  And, of course, Elijah Wood was great, continuing his recent streak.  His, er, not-classic looks are perfect for an emotionally scarred concert pianist.  John Cusack, heard but not seen for most of the movie, gives his usual competent performance.  The only weak point was his wife Emma, played by Kerry Bishe; but maybe only because her on-screen sister was so much hotter than her.

There is a lot of chatter online about the ridiculousness of the plot, and of the ending.  Most, however, do not deny that there is a great style to the movie and that it is successful in generating suspenseful.  So why would you quibble on minor points?

I rate it 84 out of 88 keys.


  • Thanks to the filmmakers for giving us 12 minutes of end credits rather than padding out the story.  But really, would an 85 minute run time have been that terrible?
  • I’m shocked, shocked! that on Rotten Tomatoes, this has an 82 from critics, but only a 50 from normal humans.  I would have strong expected the exact opposite.
  • I patted myself on the back for getting an obscure Edie Sedgwick reference when Bishe was standing in front of a poster blocking out all but E_____ick.  In retrospect, I was full of crap.


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