"Grand Piano" Review: Craig's First Take

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Moments before his comeback performance, a concert pianist who suffers from stage fright discovers a note written on his music sheet.
2.5

“Grand Piano” deserves credit for one thing: it comes up with a more absurdist take on the movie “Speed” than even the great, short-lived cartoon “The Critic” did when it came up with the movie “Speed Reading.”

This movie from director Eugenio Mira has Elijah Wood play Tom Selznick, considered the most talented classical piano player of his generation, although a screw-up five years ago has sent him into hiding. Encouraged back onto the stage for the first time since by his blonde, A-list, movie star girlfriend (Kerry Bishe) for one special night paying tribute to a dead mentor, Tom just manages to shake-off the comeback jitters when he finds a note in his sheet music telling him that if he plays one wrong note, he will be shot.

Scripted by Damien Chazelle, Tom communicates with his hostage-taker (voiced by John Cusack) through messages and ear-piece, and tries many maneuvers, like somehow managing to play music and text friends in the audience at the same time and running all over back stage during down-times in his playing during the concert.

There is a certain fascination in seeing just how this Hitchcock-like thriller will play out in the minimal space it spends much of its time in but other than a few meaningless deaths of secondary characters, there’s a lot of filler in this hour and 15 minute film (many shots showing us the gears inside a piano), a lot of far-fetched and implausible sequences (the reason for all this is a jaw-dropper), and it all ends with an action sequence that foolishly makes the gangly Tom have to win in a fight (honestly Tom’s girlfriend looks like she could beat him up; them being together is just another unbelievable part of this movie).

Wood’s measured performance, showing just the right amount of fearful jitters and reason to get Tom out of this mess, is a highlight, as is the opulent concert hall where most of this movie plays out. But there isn’t much to grab attention in “Grand Piano” and the stuff that does is all just silly.