Fun, Hitchcockian thriller starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack
Grand Piano finds pianist Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) nervously preparing for a comeback concert, several years after he choked during a performance. His stage fright pales into insignificance, however, when he sits down to play and discovers a message written on his music; if he hits a single wrong note, he or his movie star wife (Kerry Bishé) will be taken out by a sniper (a little-seen John Cusack) who's lurking in the audience.
This is a premise as high concept, and as ludicrous as they come, but Damien Chazelle's script wears its absurdity like a badge of honour to charming effect; a sequence in which Tom types out an SOS text message while playing on stage is just one enjoyably audacious moment. Visually, it's a celebration of B-movie kitsch; cinematographer Unax Mendía's camera stalks through the blood red auditorium, around and into the piano, itself a hulking black beast that Tom must tame if he is to survive. Most of the performances, too, are suitably campy; Bill & Ted’s Alex Winter takes particular delight in chewing up the scenery as Tom’s duplicitous assistant.
Yet, at its heart, Spanish director Eugenio Mira's third film is an involving, Hitchcockian tale of a persecuted man fighting for redemption against the most unlikely of circumstances. Crucial to this is Wood’s measured performance; impressively, he stays focused amidst the melodrama, a rudder to guide the story through its many outlandish moments. As Tom faces down both his aggressor and his own personal demons, he remains grounded by his honest emotional reactions to an insane predicament. And as the craziness swirls to a cacophonous pitch around him, Tom’s hand becomes, both literally and figuratively, increasingly steady.
Selected release from Fri 19 Sep.