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Critics' Pick Grand Piano

Movie Details

Grand Piano
  • Genre: Suspense/Thriller
  • Release Date: 2014-03-07 Limited
  • Running Time: 90 min.
  • Director: Eugenio Mira
  • Cast: Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Tamsin Egerton, Kerry Bishe, Alex Winter, Dee Wallace
  • Producers: Adrián Guerra, Rodrigo Cortes
  • Writer: Damien Chazelle
  • Distributor: Magnet Releasing
  • Official Site: Grand Piano Official Site

Blockbuster spectacles are a dime a dozen. The thing we almost never see is the ambitious trifle, the smaller movie that strives to tell a story with vivid images rather than dialogue, that uses music lavishly but intelligently, that dances right at us, Nijinksy-style, with unapologetic theatricality, if not outright nuttiness. Grand Piano, a devilish little thriller from Spanish filmmaker Eugenio Mira, is that sort of movie. The plot mechanism alone is ingeniously ridiculous. Elijah Wood plays a once-great concert pianist, Tom Selznick, who hasn't performed in five years. Now, Tom, accompanied by a full orchestra, will make his comeback seated at the custom Bösendorfer that once belonged to his mentor, a rich, eccentric genius. Tom is nervous enough when he finally sits down to play; then, a page or two into the piece, he looks at his sheet music and sees a message printed in red Sharpie: "Play one wrong note and you die." Later, we'll hear the voice, through an earpiece, of the devious snake behind that directive, and it belongs to John Cusack. Grand Piano's elaborate script is by Damien Chazelle, and the picture isn't as clearly plotted as it might be -- key details are packed into lines of dialogue that whiz by at lightning speed. But the details may not matter. Mira's camera moves are all De Palma, or at least Hitchcock as filtered through De Palma. Like him, Mira doesn't just offer interesting images -- a man playing for his life at a gleaming piano, a movie star shimmering along in a silky Grecian gown. He uses the camera to show us where to look, which is something else entirely.

Stephanie Zacharek

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