BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
MAY 17, 2014
Elijah Wood is not a piano-playing prodigy. But from the looks of director Eugenio Mira’s new feature film “Grand Piano”, he looks exactly like he has been playing piano his entire life. The premise of “Phone Booth,” which saw Colin Farrell stuck in a phone booth taking orders from a sniper that we never see, but whose presence is felt through his voice on the payphone and his wake of destruction, Mira’s film puts the lead character, Tom Selznick, on an orchestral stage instead of a phone booth, while our mystery man (voiced by John Cusack) remains unseen in one of the box seats, with a powerful gun, barking orders through an earpiece. Tom does not have to answer any questions or take care of a list of deeds, however. All he has to do is play the best concert of his life. One wrong note and he is dead. One false step or cry for help, he and his wife Emma (Kerry Bishé) are both dead.
A few problems lie in store for Tom. First of all, he is just returning to his piano playing days, having taken a break since his mentor passed away and since a highly publicized meltdown on stage. Returning to the spotlight, playing a perfect show even without a gun pointed at his chest would prove to be difficult. Another problem is that the shooter is asking Tom to tackle a piece dubbed “the unplayable piece,” not only difficult but the same piece he played during his meltdown. Elijah Wood plays the role of Tom pitch perfectly, riding the edge between professional and manic as he plays the piano completely convincingly and acts off of nothing but a voice coming from his ear. On the other side of that, John Cusack voices his role perfectly, bringing a dynamic to the man on the other side of the line that adds tension and suspense with every threat and delivery.
Having attended a Q&A with the director about the film, I can tell you that Eugenio Mira has a talent for film-making. Carefully mapped out to the pieces that would be composed, as to add a lyrical nature to the editing of the film, to decipher or replicate exactly how Mira achieved this film would be impossible. “Grand Piano” is a competent thriller, with a level of heightened production value that carries an otherwise minimal location film into something suspenseful and easy to watch. With a well-written screenplay that allows these actors to thrive and enough twists and turns, along with an impressively blindsiding and completely grounded conclusion, this becomes a huge achievement in independent film-making and brings to fruition a work of art that not only reaches a vast audience but delivers on the original concept of its creators. Eugenio Mira may not be a household name as far as directors go, but with the interesting concept of his first feature, “The Birthday” starring Corey Feldman and now “Grand Piano,” he is a director to keep an eye on.
March 7, 2014
(for some language)
Jose Luis Romeu