I'm going to be brief, there is a pianist (not you know. . . nevermind!) and um, well, I'm not going to say much. . . Let's just say $#!+ hits the fan very quickly in this indie thriller about a piano prodigy who has hidden away for a few years till one special night where he decides to come back on stage. Things obviously go very wrong.
Stepping back a bit, I have a very interesting relationship to pianos. There is (no joke) 5 pianos is our family's household not including my extra keyboard or the keyboard at the lake cabin. My grandpa is an expert himself. He has had his hands on over 100 pianos in his possession in his lifetime, whether it was for restoring them, collecting them, or generously giving them to his children and grandchildren. That being said, I am slightly ashamed to say that I can't play sheet music. The only thing I can do is be creative. I know my chords well enough to create my own mediocre tunes and melodies, but that's it.
How does the egocentric paragraph tie into the film? Well. . .um. . . the title. . . I just want you to know my background to understand my perspective of the film. Surprisingly though, this isn't even the greatest thing I could relate to. The anxiety in this film is my greatest connection. Being an incredibly anxious and frazzled person by nature, this film showcases it in a way I can relate to. After first watching the film I wasn't sure if I could find anything phenomenal about. While not all movies need something incredible about them to be great, it is my belief that at least something fundamental about the film has to be phenomenal to achieve the highest rating. While Grand Piano, doesn't earn the highest rating (for another reason I will get to later), it is not because it did not do something superb. The tension, suspension, and thriller moments in Grand Piano are brilliant. I was on the edge of my seat, right where I was supposed to be, for almost the entirety of the film.
Elijah Wood also helps elevate this film from being good to great. At first glance, it appears that his portrayal of his character is merely solid - nothing more, nothing less. On second glance, you start to realize what a physically and mentally demanding performance he is giving and what incredible actor he is. So many moments in this film we actually see him playing the piano at a very brisk pace. Let me be clear, that is actually him. Now he is not a world class pianist, but he fooled me. So many moments in the average film we are given the cliché treatment of a shot of the fingers playing, then a shot of the face, back to the fingers playing. We are never given the chance to see poetry in motion. This is not the case in Grand Piano. Props to both Elijah Wood and the director for actually showing him playing the piano while doing top notch acting.
These aren't the only things that are great. There is of course the music itself. It is quite beautiful while simultaneously aiding the film in its suspension. This is coupled beautifully with the cinematography in Grand Piano. The camera work really gives a sense of place and perspective. A couple of the long shots him going around backstage are quite creative and elegant. The sweeping shots are also beautiful and give a sense of enormity for the theatre, which is needed in a film that could have felt too claustrophobic and low budget. All of this is held together by the cast. Many of the roles could have felt over the top or lacking believability. Everyone plays there part a good as one could ask for without demanding award wining performances.
The only real flaw with film could be said to deal with its logic. It is not the most rationally water tight film ever made, and upon second thought this starts to show. I won't go in depth as to not spoil the film for you. What I will say is that fine tuned analysis and scrutiny of everything working together perfectly will not help you in appreciating Grand Piano more.
Perfect logic aside, Grand Piano is an excellent film. My brother and I, who both share a passion for high quality cinema, enjoyed this film immensely. We were both startled when we realized how low of a rating it got from its audience (5.9 /10 on IMDb and a 50% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes). How anyone can dislike this film to that level is a puzzle to me. Some may complain about the shortness of the film, being just over 80 minutes not counting credits. What the length tells me is that anything that wasn't needed in the film was thrown out. What you are left with is a well paced thriller that counts. Furthermore, some may complain over the ending which I will not spoil. All I can say is that what was needed to be shown was shown and what wasn't needed wasn't. We don't always need to be spoon fed every detail. Sometimes the experience itself and what it provokes outweighs the importance of anything else. Even a high rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't completely do Grand Piano justice in my estimation. It is an incredibly well made film with a more than enjoyable, well paced plot. Of course come to your own opinion of the film, just don't be influenced by low IMDb ratings or anything of the sort when it comes to this small dynamite of a film.
Personal Preference: 4.5/5
Critical Analysis: 4.5/5
(You can find set film at your local Redbox)