February 6, 2014

VOD Review- Grand Piano (2014)

Grand Piano is the best Brian De Palma movie made by someone who isn't Brian De Palma.

I say that because I somehow got it in my head that this was De Palma's new film. When I realized that it wasn't, I was sure that he must have produced it or something, but I was wrong on that account too.

In the end, I suppose that it's a pretty good compliment for a small film like Grand Piano to be mistaken for (or even compared to) the work of a director who made an art form out of making excellent movies that featured frantic cat-and-mouse games and masterful, long tracking shots.

Aside from the De Palma comparison, Grand Piano even feels a bit Hitchcockian in parts, which again, speaks well of the movie.

No matter what comparisons you make in regards to Grand Piano, it's safe to say that it's an effective little flick that continues Elijah Wood's recent hot streak of picking great roles in great movies.

After Tom Failznick saved The Shire (but not for him), he became quite the accomplished piano player; a phenom, if you will, and some say even the best of his generation. All of that makes the fact that he's been in seclusion for the past five years -crippled by stage fright due to a botched performance- all the more tragic. The world has missed his talent, and it needs his brilliance!

Well, maybe not the whole world.
With the death of his musical mentor, Tom has decided to once again return to the stage to play what I am guessing is some sort of tribute concert, using former master's Grand Piano. The thought of performing again has him feeling as nervous as a small, tender boy in a basement full of Priests, but he is determined to let nothing deter him from his comeback...

...except for the guy in the balcony with the sniper rifle.
It seems that Lloyd Dobbler is hell-bent on making Tom's return performance one for the ages, so much so that he's made all sorts of helpful notes in his score, such as: "Play one wrong note and you die," "I will shoot you in the face if you suck," and "Don't screw this up, Failznick! lol." This of course only adds to Tom's level of stress, but it also sets him on a course to discover just who is doing this to him, and why... which he does... with a cellphone... while playing a concert. Don't ask.

"I miss The Shire."
Can Tom pull off the complicated number that sent him into shameful hiding so many years ago? Will Lloyd Dobbler shoot him in the face? Will the ending leave you vaguely dissatisfied as as it did us? Far be it from me to spoil anything for you here, but suffice it to say that sometimes even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

Failznick will find you, Lloyd Dobbler!
Grand Piano is a solid little Thriller that manages to make the most of its small trappings. It definitely smacks of other movies like Buried or Phonebooth in that the movie's plot unfolds in one central location, and involves a protagonist who is trapped and desperately trying to find a way out of a hopeless situation.

Grand Piano feels a lot like it could be a Brian De Palma movie, even if it doesn't hit a lot of the beats that the typical De Palma Thriller does. It maintains a palpable amount of tension throughout, and since Elijah Wood is so likable in just about every movie he's in, we were genuinely concerned with his character's well being here.

Can you guess which one of these people in the balcony is the creeper with the rapey stare?
Elijah Wood is good here as per usual. He's always so earnest and likable in his movies (Maniac aside), which makes it easy for us to feel his plight and root for him. John Cusack is solid here too, even if his character is a bit on the one-dimensional side of things, as we spend most of the movie only hearing his voice rather than seeing him.

It was also nice to see Alex Winter in something again. I honestly don't think we've seen him in a movie since the heyday of such classics as The Lost Boys or the Bill & Ted movies.

No one stole your piano, it's right there behind you. Calm down.
As for the negatives, the bit with the couple bickering and tussling in the audience was annoying, because how can grown adults act so foolish in such a quiet and classy setting? that whole sequence felt like a plot device that was shoehorned into the movie for no other reason than to add to the body count. It felt out of place in comparison to the way the rest of the movie played out.

If Grand Piano truly drops the ball in any respect though, it with its resolution; once we found out what the point of the whole "play perfectly or die!" thing was, it kind of killed a bit of the momentum for us. Without spoiling anything specific, we would have much preferred to see the "bad guy" be more of a flat out maniac rather than a calculating criminal. 

The ending was passable, but it just felt overly-elaborate and contrived.

You can't put your hands up, you have to play!
Though its climax is nowhere near as thrilling as what comes before it, Grand Piano is a tension-filled effort that hits most of its notes quite admirably. This is a polished and classy Thriller, that despite a misstep or two, works as it was designed to. It's not a perfect Thriller, but it is one hell of a solid effort

Grand Piano is available on VOD now, and in Theaters (Limited) on March 7th.


Kerry Bishe and Tamsin Egerton are the loveliest keys on this Grand Piano... unless of course you're more partial to Frobo Bagglins, then he's probably the loveliest of them. Either way, I suppose they're all lovely in their own way.

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