The first film that comes to mind when describing the plot of Grand Piano would be Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth. There we found Colin Farrell trapped in a phone booth with a sniper rifle pointed at him. On television this would be considered a bubble episode where the characters are confined within one setting the entire time. If it sounds like a lot of plot devices are in order to keep the characters in one place for 90 minutes, you’d be right. But just as Schumacher delivered thrills at a breakneck pace, so does director Eugenio Mira in his second feature: Grand Piano.
Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) is on his way to hit the stage for a comeback performance as one of the world’s best pianists. This is after a bout with stage fright lead to a break down years before. His movie star wife Emma (Kerry Bishé) is in attendance, along with their closest friends, Ashley (Tamsin Egerton) and Wayne (Allen Leech). Ashley thinks it’s weird that they aren’t allowed to sit with Emma; she’s been given a very specific seat. We come to find out why. A man with a gun (John Cusack) has his sights set on both Emma and Tom after Tom finds handwritten threats written onto his sheet music. If he plays one wrong note he’ll start pulling the trigger. Now, Tom must play the night of his life or they’ll both die.
Director Mira and screenwriter Damien Chazelle — who just won both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize for Whiplash at this year’s Sundance — keep the shenanigans barreling along as the film continues to get more ludicrous with each scene. Grand Piano comes cocked and loaded with a sense of humor as we see Tom trying to keep his wife safe, and find out who the madman is while continuing to play onstage. With dizzying camera work from Unax Mendía and nearly non-stop music courtesy of Victor Reyes, along with the cast, everyone manages to keep the film from getting too over-the-top or as deadly serious, if in the hands of a lesser director.
Visual gags even make for some hilarious moments whether it’s a reaction to a ringing cell phone or a cut to a bow being dragged across strings in lieu of a throat being slashed. Grand Piano may have a loosey-goosey tone, but it is thankfully dopey without ever becoming dumb. Grand Piano is a grand way to kick off the year’s slate of thrillers because it’s a lot of fun and should also be seen in a theater with a killer sound system.
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