Yesterday I saw Grand Piano, starring Elijah Wood. It’s one of those movies as an amateur pianist and filmmaker that I kick myself for watching. I wish I came up with the idea, because for a horror movie, it’s quite brilliant. I got this movie on redbox and the premise that drew me in (besides the title) is something like “a pianist returns to the stage after a 5 year hiatus, only to find ‘play one note wrong and you will die’ written on the score.”
Most horror movies these days are more or less the same. There is blood and guts and surprises, but it’s all spectacle and no storytelling. Older horror films like the famous Hitchcock bunch, Birds, Vertigo and Rear Window are not only suspenseful, but also have some good storytelling to them (and I would also mention some good scores featuring Bernard Hermann). What I liked about Grand Piano was that I got a little taste of Hitchcock watching the film, while still getting an original story and that’s to the director’s and screenwriters credit.
I also give credit also to the composer of the film, because if you watch it, the main story features a classical music concert. The music of which isn’t just some DJ beats and synth strings, it’s really some nice neo-romantic classical music, and watching the making of featurette on the disc, I learned all that went into it. There was actually a lot of planning that was required, figuring out the staging of a particular scene and lining up a part of the screenplay script with a part of the music score and it’s corresponding visual part. I only wish I could have sat in on the making of the film. I’ve always wished to watch a movie scorer at work, but in this movie, it would have been a special treat.
Another clip in the making of featurette was Mr. Wood explaining in an interview how he was trained in piano from 10 to 15. When the piano tutor who was a piano professor helped him, he found out exactly how much (rather, how little) Wood knew. Fortunately, lip syncing on the piano only required general movements, not precision. And if you watch most of you should be able to tell quite easily that it was an amateur job. The parts where he’s missing a note, or the part where a finger is playing a note, but sounds like it is not the right one
If I was Mr. Wood, I think I would give up acting at this point, because this really seems like a great place to go out on top. As a nerd, he saved the world from parasitic aliens in the Faculty, he’s been Frodo Baggins in Jackson’s epic adaptation of Tolkien’s LOTR trilogy and now he’s played a world-class pianist. What more could you want as a celebrity? I dare to guess he has enough money to live comfortably…
So, if you are at redbox and are deciding if you should give this movie a chance, I’d say for $1.30, why not give it a try. The worst it can be as a story is cheesy, at best it can be entertaining and not just another sixteenth “Saw” remake. And you can judge for yourself -- by ear – if the “unplayable piece” featured in the film is indeed unplayable.
If you’ve seen it already, any additional thoughts? I’d like to hear from Joe, after all he’s the other movie critic on the forum!