|Elijah Wood in GRAND PIANO, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.|
2014, 90 minutes (78 without end credits)
Rated R for some language
Review by Joshua Handler
Eugenio Mira's film, Grand Piano is an undeniably impressive film, which, flaws and all, is worth seeking out due to some beautifully filmed and edited sequences, a compelling story (written by Damien Chazelle, writer/director of Sundance-winner Whiplash), and a strong performance from Elijah Wood in the lead. Very Hitchcockian in nature, Grand Piano tells the story of a stage fright-stricken pianist, Tom Selznick (Wood), who, during his comeback performance, discovers a threatening note mysteriously written on his music sheet.
Stylistically, Grand Piano is a big homage to the grandiose style of Brian De Palma and Dario Argento's early work. The energetic, sweeping cinematography and giallo-influenced lighting make this film a pleasure to watch. Narratively, this is basically a modern Hitchcock film. While Grand Piano never had me on the edge of my seat, I was compelled for most of the movie. Near the end of the film, Grand Piano begins to fall apart, especially during its disappointing final moments, but the build-up is so good that it's to somewhat forgive the narrative shortcomings.
Elijah Wood is one of the most criminally underrated actors out there. From his superb work in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy to his disturbing work in Sin City and Maniac, Wood is reliably strong, and Grand Piano is no exception. He delivers a nervous, scared-out-of-his-mind performance that carries the film. As the mysterious man who left the note on Selznick's music, John Cusack delivers a fun performance - one of his best in years. Most of his performance is delivered exclusively through his voice (his face isn't scene for most of the movie) and he does a remarkably good job at keeping the intensity up.
Overall, Grand Piano is a fun thriller that is, for the first chunk at least, a blast to watch. The direction of the first 50 or so minutes of this film is really expert. I'm very excited to see what happens to Eugenio Mira's career after this because Grand Piano shows that he's a talent to watch out for.