Film Review – Grand Piano

Grand Piano

Grand Piano

If you’d never heard of or seen a trailer for Grand Piano (and chances are you haven’t so how did you even find this?), I imagine the conversation going something like this:

Me: Just saw that movie Grand Piano.

You: Grand Whatzit Now?

Me: Elijah Wood is a concert pianist conveniently stricken with stage fright who is taunted by a sniper in the balcony of his first show in 5 years. IF HE PLAYS A WRONG NOTE HE DIES

You: ???

Me: And John Cusack is the sniper!

You (presumably): I’m in.

Grand Piano Movie Still 1

And there it is. Grand Piano in a nutshell. Sure, there are twists and turns throughout, but what it boils down to is a taut yet silly crackerjack thriller. A bastard child of DePalma and Hitchcock that manages to exceed decidedly minimal expectations thanks to its profound commitment to absurdity.

Wood stars as bundle-of-nerves Tom Selznick. Allusions to a botched performance years prior set us up for a nerve-wracking evening that director Eugenio Mira wisely plays out mostly in real time. Tom is drawn out of the wood works to honor a mentor that has recently passed. Accompanied by his emerging movie star wife (Kerry Bishé), who draws paparazzi all on her own, expectations are sky high. Cue the menacing premise!

Selznick opens his music sheet in front of a full, expectant crowd and is greeted with a scrawl in (what else) red ink: PLAY A WRONG NOTE AND YOU DIE

Let’s take a breather here.

Our high strung hero, whose only establishing characteristic is being high strung, is put in a position in which his worst fears are realized in a crowd of thousands. What can you do outside of sweat? Rest assured he sweats.

Grand Piano Movie Still 2


I don’t want to give away too much about the sniper’s motivation but it’s exactly 10 times as ludicrous as it has any right to be. And all the better for it. “Clem” (Cusack) clearly has an agenda. Once said agenda is spoken basically to the camera, we as an audience have no choice but to tag along for the ride. Buckle in and keep your hands to your side.

Also, Bill (Alex Winter) from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure has a pretty meaty supporting role because why the hell not. And ya know what? It works. This movie set out to do one thing and bygawl did it succeed. The “twist” is bonkers and makes less sense than a parka in July. In other words, a total blast. Cusack in particular seems to find recent comfort in playing the  slimeball. No one signs on for The Paperboy and comes out alive. Recent Best Actor winners excluded.

Some will argue Grand Piano is fluff. Some will argue Grand Piano has nothing to say. To those I say, you’re probably right, but where’s your sense of humor?




Nick's eyes were opened to a film's capabilities with his first viewing of L.A. Confidential and he's spent every day since then doggedly pursuing impactful movies big and small.

Follow him on Twitter or email him.

View all posts by this author