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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Grand Piano

May 19th, 2014

Grand Piano - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Grand Piano is a thriller that opened in limited release earlier this year. Thrillers rarely do well in limited release and this film proved to be no exception. Despite earning amazing reviews, the film opened below the Mendoza Line and disappeared in a matter of weeks. Granted, it was also playing on Video on Demand, so the theatrical numbers were an after thought. This week, it comes out on the home market, but will those who passed on it in theaters want to check it out now?

The Movie

The film begins with a bunch of burly men moving a piano and when it's on the truck, we see Tom Selznick on a plane. He's panicked to the point where the passenger beside him tries to comfort Tom. When Tom realizes the plane is landing, that's when he really begins to panic. In a conversation with his wife, Emma, what he's truly scared of is that nights classical piano recital and he was hoping something would cause his flight to be delayed. This concert was his wife's idea, because she thinks it's time he gets back into playing in front of an audience, as it has been five years since he's performed. He retired, because he developed a case of stage fright. He does have a security blanket, so to speak. He will be playing on Patrick Godureaux's old piano. Patrick Godureaux was an eccentric musician and Tom's mentor. Tom practiced on that piano for years, so it should be very comfortable to play it again.

When Tom arrives at the auditorium he talks to Norman, who will be the conductor, who helps calm his nerves. He does this in a strange way, by telling him he is going to screw up. The piece he is trying to play is incredibly dense and there's no way to get through it without messing up a few notes. The thing is, no one in the audience will notice; they never do. We also learn a little bit more about Patrick Godureaux; for instance, he hid his fortune from his family after he died.

When he finally gets on stage, he is still a ball of anxiety, but he's ready to play. The concert starts out fantastically, but he notices someone has drawn a red arrow on his score. When he turns the page, he see a note written in red. "Play one wrong note and you die." So much for Norman's pep talk. At first he thinks this is just another prank from the orchestra (they had previous wrote "Failznick" on his dressing room door in the same red ink). However, when the threats become more specific and he sees the dot of a laser scope, he knows it is real.

One of the downsides to my job is the amount of research I have to do on films when they first come out. It is impossible not to learn a lot about a movie while researching it and many times what I learn colors my opinion of the film. (On a side note, I've read a study that suggested knowing the surprise twist of a film actually makes you like the film more. This makes sense, as you are no longer trying to figure out where the movie will end up, but instead are able to enjoy the journey more.) Many of the reviews I read described the film as Hitchcockian and since I really like Alfred Hitchcock's films, I had high hopes for this film. Does it live up to Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films? Of course not. I wasn't expecting it to.

That said, I can see where the critics were coming from. This is a very tense film about an everyday guy who gets dragged into something he clearly isn't equipped to deal with, which happens in The Man Who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest, etc. It also had a similar feel to Lifeboat, as Tom Selznick was trapped in one location. The script has some flaws. There were a few times I thought to myself that if I were to rewatch this movie looking for logical flaws, I would be able to tear it apart. For instance, and without giving away any spoilers, the motivation of the bad guy were questionable and there had to be an easy way to accomplish his goal. (I know they had a discussion about that subject in the movie, but and this is a super spoiler, but they treated the lock as if it were magic, not a physical object that could be opened through other means.) However, I was still fully engaged by the movie. The performance by Elijah Wood is excellent and he's perfectly cast as a ball of anxiety. The directing really amped up the tension in the movie, overcoming any of the "What?" moments I had in the film.

The Extras

Extras begin with a 17 minute making of featurette. There is a 14-minute interview with Eugenio Mira and a 20-minute interview with Elijah Wood. Up next is a three-minute featurette on the soundtrack. Coaches is a five-minute featurette about the coaching for Elijah Wood to re-learn how to play the piano and Don McManus learning how to be a conductor. There is also a five-minute featurette on the director, Eugenio Mira. Finally, there is a four-minute featurette on the stunts. There is no audio commentary track, but this is still a great selection for a limited release.

I don't have the Blu-ray to compare, but it costs nearly double what the DVD costs. That's too much.

The Verdict

Grand Piano is a very engaging thriller and worth picking up. There are a good selection of extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray, but the latter is overpriced compared to the former.

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Filed under: Video Review, Grand Piano, Alfred Hitchcock, Elijah Wood, Kerry Bishe, Don McManus, Eugenio Mira