Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Grand Piano


I’m sometimes a bit of a pushover when it comes to the plots of thrillers. I’ll let a lot of improbable things go by for the sake of the movement of the story. But eventually I reach my limit, and I got there about halfway through this turkey.

The set-up: Elijah Wood is the “world’s greatest pianist,” but five years ago he choked and fled the stage after messing up “the unplayable concerto.” Now he’s back, and no sooner does he play the first page than he is told, by notes on the sheet music and, later, an earpiece, they he and his movie star wife are in the crosshairs of a high-powered rifle. Fuck up one single note of the unplayable piece, the killer tells him, and your brains will be all over the ivories. (P.S. I don’t think there is such a thing as an unplayable piece. What would be the point?)

It’s tense for a while, and then you begin to be pretty sure that the answer to why this is being done to him is going to be super-stupid. And it is. I’d issue a spoiler warning and tell you all about it, but it’s really too stupid. I’d rather just issue a warning: Don’t waste your time.

I do have to mention one thing, though. The concerto he’s playing has to be the oddest one ever written. A piano concerto is primarily about the piano! There will be times when the pianist is sitting there, sure, and the orchestra thunders on to the next part, but that’s seldom more than a minute. Two minutes, tops. This concerto has half a dozen gaps long enough for Elijah to get up and hurry backstage (the audience accepts this, I guess, because he is “eccentric”) and take care of the things the voice in his ear demands that he do. Hell, he has time to make a couple tuna sandwiches, polish his shoes, dictate a few memos, catch the last few innings of the Cubs game, take a short nap, and still get back to the old 97-key Bösendorfer (and to my amazement, there is such a thing!) … and wait around for his next downbeat. Before long I was laughing.