I told my brother about how much I didn’t like this movie, and afterwards he commented that my description had taken up more time than he wanted to spend on the film. With that in mind I’m going to try to keep this brief.
Basically, here’s the math.
Phone Booth + Shine = Grand Piano
Remember Shine? It was the story of a troubled master piano player who had sort of lost his mind while trying to play an infamously difficult piece, only to eventually be re-discovered and to have an opportunity to do a “come back” later in life.
Remember Phone Booth? It’s the story of a guy who gets trapped in a phone booth by an insane mastermind with a sniper rifle, who threatens to kill the guy if he doesn’t obey his every whim.
Well, Grand Piano is the story of a troubled master piano player (Elijah Wood) who “choked” and walked off the stage when he was meant to play an infamously difficult piece. Five years later, he has a chance to stage a come-back concert. During this performance, he finds he is trapped by an insane mastermind with a sniper rifle who threatens to kill him (and his actress wife) if he doesn’t obey his every whim – specifically to play that infamously difficult piece as an impromptu addendum to the concert.
Why does he want to do this? Because that’s the only way to get a special secret compartment hidden deep inside the piano to open. This compartment contains a key that will unlock a never-specified treasure. And the bad guy, who is in fact the dude who built this special locked box, figures the best way to get this box open is not to hijack the piano, kidnap the pianist and force him to play the song; or to replicate the song electronically; or to just take the piano and cut it open with a chainsaw. Instead, the easiest thing to do is to threaten a pianist known for panicking in the middle of a performance to play the very piece he panicked about; a piece, by the way, which he hasn’t practiced for this performance.
So, more accurately, in addition to Shine and Phone Booth, you have to add in a bit of a dose of some film in which the characters do things for no particularly good reason, which you’d think would be easy to come up with but I’m having difficulty right now. Maybe National Treasure?
There is some slick editing and good camerawork in the movie, but it’s not enough to overcome these ills.
In both Phone Booth and Grand Piano, the mostly-unseen villain is being played a famous actor, even though his role consists almost entirely of an off-screen voice and just one short scene at the end. Unlike Kiefer Sutherland in Phone Booth, Grand Piano’s John Cusack actually gets to fight the hero and fall to his doom, live on stage, onto…you guessed it…the grand piano.
Just to make sure the whole thing is poetic and stuff.