‘Grand Piano’ is a symphony for the eyes and ears.

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Grand Piano PosterNever have I watched the opening credits to a film and felt so uneasy. Shadowy glimpses of what you realize are parts of a piano become threatening, weapon-like. GRAND PIANO,  is a 2013 thriller starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack written by Damien Chazelle  (writer/director of last year’s Whiplash).

Wood plays a retired pianist coming back on stage after 5 years and terrible stage fright. Doesn’t sound too thrilling yet, but as the camera follows the main character, Tom Selznick, from his plane ride to his dressing room for the big night, you know he hates every second of what is about to unfold. His past is catching up with him, for in the last performance he ever gave he choked on stage. Now, he is charged with playing his playing his master and teacher’s piano in what should be the comeback performance of his life.

 

GrandPianoOne problem… as he begins to play, a note is written on his sheet music, “Play one wrong note and you die.”  Now we’re cooking. With one audience oblivious and the other (you) with Tom, the tempo goes through the roof. When the messages end in his first piece of music, they instruct him to run back to his dressing room for a gift. Officially enters Clem (John Cusack, well his voice at least) as he spews instructions and threats into Tom’s ear via a wireless earpiece. Tom must not let the audience, including his wife (Kerry Bishe’), know that anything is wrong or someone gets a bullet to the head. He must keep playing.

 

GrandPiano2Wood gives a fantastic performance here as he is actually playing each piece of music himself; taking lessons during pre-production and while filming. But not only is he playing these incredibly intricate selections but he is acting his bum off in the process. Cusack’s voice is so iconic that you can see him in your mind making calm conversation all while aiming a high powered, laser sighted rifle on Tom and his wife. An entire character that is not listed anywhere in the credits is the score. Creating a perfect pace and suspense, award winning composer, Victor Reyes takes our minds on a thrill ride. Haunting and edgy and slightly off balance, you don’t miss a beat, literally.

 

grand piano wood and cusackThe script has really interesting twists and turns. Almost playing out entirely in real time adds a wonderful element of rush for the audience. The editing is masterful. So much thought went into each frame and there are more than handful of Hitchcockian nods that are visually breathtaking.  Grand Piano takes the fears of any performer to the nth degree. Pre-show jitters are something we all experience whether you are the performer or the audience member. Bottom line is, Woods and Cusack make you uncomfortable from the get go. Grand Piano’s music will stay with you long after the film ends and the script takes a turn you never see coming. You can check out Grand Piano now streaming on Netflix.

 

 

Directed by: Eugenio Mira 

Written By: Damien Chazelle 

Score: Victor Reyes

Starring: Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Kerry Bishe’, Tamsin Egerton, Allen Leech, Don McManus, Dee Wallace, and Alex Winter

Rated R: Language and Violence

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