Grand Piano is a taut thriller cast in the 39 Steps mould of a character trapped on stage knowing that if they do the wrong thing they will be shot.
A virtuoso pianist is returning to the stage five years after his attempt to play a reputedly unplayable piece “La Cinquette” by composer Patrick Godureaux ended in failure due to stage fright. Elijah Wood’s character Tom Selznick has been persuaded to return by his beautiful wife Emma who is feted for her singing and has become the more famous of the two. Tom has various comedic moments of terror en route to the stage, like his desire for the plane to go down, then his conducting a telephone interview for a radio show whilst getting changed into his tux in the back of a limo. A vacuous blonde friend of his wife, Ashley and her boyfriend Wayne turn up late-ish due to going for a drink and have to sit in the good seats in the stalls rather than in the side box where Emma and her entourage have been seated. Ashley is not best pleased. This becomes an important plot device later.
An already nervous Tom sees notes written in red on his manuscripts telling him he will be killed if he plays one wrong note. His wife is also clearly under threat.
Tom and the viewing audience are never entirely sure who can be trusted and who can not. As people are picked off one by one and only Tom remains aware of what is going on his bizarre stage behaviour is put down to nerves while he frantically tries to comply with the extraordinary demands, just enough, to keep everyone safe and play his nemesis.
The acting is very good, the piano playing looks believable – but I’m no virtuoso – and the tension builds throughout. The antagonist came as a surprise to me and the ending is satisfying while slightly enigmatic.
Grand Piano has the feel of an updated film noir classic. Colour is used sparingly at times as part of the blocking to convey danger. Montage is used in scenes such as the cut from a drawing of a sharp object across someone’s throat to the drawing of a bow across strings. A clever drama, albeit with a few questionable plot holes, and one to be savoured if you like your thrills to have a musical element.