Title: Grand Piano
Director: Eugenio Mira
Major Players: Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Allen Leech
Out Of Five: 3
The opening music to Grand Piano starts up and I could’ve sworn I saw the name Brian de Palma float across the screen. I didn’t, of course, but the fact that what I was hearing was a straight rip from Morricone’s The Untouchables soundtrack made me anticipate something glossy and grandiose and very much in the de Palma style. And, indeed, the film has more than a touch of it.
Talented pianist Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) has been away from the stage for five years after a notorious case of stage fright. Now he’s back, in front of a packed Chicago venue and supported by his glamorous film star wife. But he’s soon aware that one member of the audience isn’t on his side. Out there, in that dark auditorium, is somebody hell bent on killing him or his wife – or both. And the pianist has to stop him, but without the audience guessing anything.
So there’s one selected victim, one (almost) faceless would-be assassin, and one potential hostage. It’s a simple and familiar set-up – something of Piano Phone Booth, in fact. And for most of the film, it has pretentions to be something bigger, with its melodramatic style, big stage setting, large audience and sweeping camerawork. It’s yet another film in a single location, which helps with the tension, and the classical music isn’t just beautiful to listen to, it’s also the actual soundtrack. Which means it’s on a grand scale as well.
So why, oh why, is the ending so feeble? It’s far too abrupt and leaves too may questions unanswered. Unless you do a bit of your own detective work, the assassin’s motive simply isn’t clear enough and, after all that build-up, it hardly seems worth it.
It may have pretentions to be something grander, but Grand Piano can’t disguise that’s it’s essentially a glossy B-movie – one that’s been hyped up by the presence of Wood and John Cusack and given a half-decent distribution. But a B-movie nonetheless.
What’s curious about it is that, despite all that, and the fact that it’s really rather far-fetched, it’s still remarkably watchable. Saturday night, bottle of wine, Grand Piano …. Yep, that’ll do.
Grand Piano goes on general release on Friday, 19 September.