For most of my life, Elijah Wood has creeped me out, much in the way that little people creep me out-because he looks like a child, but isn’t one. In fact, Elijah Wood is three years my senior, but when I am eighty years old, I will look ninety while he will continue to look twelve and will, still, give me a horrible case of the willies.
I never could believe him in honest roles as I found Frodo far more frightening than anything that came out of Mordor. In fact, I couldn’t really get into any role Wood played until Sin City in 2005, when his role as Kevin, the psychopath, (who names a psychopath Kevin anyway?) felt more fitting to his appearance.
Fast forward to 2012 when Wood plays the lead role of Frank in the remake of Maniac, murdering and scalping women as a result of his mommy issues. I am still unsure as to whether Maniac was as amazing as I believe or if it was just because Wood is who I would turn away from in a dark alley. Horror is where he belongs.
I was fortunate enough to catch an advanced screening of Grand Piano at the Nevermore Film Festival here in Durham, NC at The Carolina Theater. To throw in a shameless plug for them, The Carolina Theater plays some pretty incredible horror double features on Friday nights. If you live nearby and aren’t going to those films, what are you doing with your life?
Wood plays Tom Selznick, the world’s youngest and most talented concert pianist. His mentor, who has recently passed away, wrote a song that has been dubbed “The Impossible Piece” as only he and Tom are able to play it. Now that he is dead, Tom is the only living person able to perform the song. However, five years ago, Tom froze during the song and hasn’t played piano since.
His mentor’s personal piano has been shipped in and Tom is making a comeback, performing songs his mentor loved. With his stage fright already at extreme heights, he finds that there is a man in the audience with a sniper rifle aimed at his head, prepared to shoot should he miss a single note.
Grand Piano is excellent for many reasons. To start, the music is incredible. At risk of sounding like a hipster, I really hope someone releases the soundtrack on vinyl.
Second, there is the casting. We see a triumphant return for John Cusack after the horrible bomb that was The Raven, a great role for Alex Winter, whom you might remember as Bill S. Preston of Bill and Ted, and a fun, though short, part for Allen Leech of Downton Abbey.
Third, the film was very Hitchcock in its delivery. At several points in the film, I was reminded of some of my favorite Hitchcock scenes, most notably, the scene in Psycho where Mr. Arbogast is killed at the top of the stairs by whom we assume is Norman’s mother. I won’t say who died similarly, but when you watch, I believe you will recognize it.
Lastly, Elijah Wood is just amazing as Tom Selznick. He is believable as a weakened man overcoming failure but intelligent to the point of extreme talent and ability to out think even the most prepared of criminals. We get to watch as he not only defeats his fear of the past but as he gains enough confidence to put on the performance of his life.
While it was a film my friend Kenny lovingly described as Speed with a piano, I found Grand Piano thoroughly enjoyable. I enjoyed the slow burn and build of suspense paired with the beauty of the symphony playing alongside Wood’s calm, yet frantic piano playing.
If you are a Hitchcock fan in the market for a good thriller, I strongly recommend Grand Piano. At the very least, you will walk out having heard some incredible music but if that is all you get from the film, you might want to spend a little time with the classics, rebuilding your simplistic tastes in horror.