1 December 2014 | rooprect
The Piano Man's Disaster
While there is no single glaring flaw of this film, it is the culmination of dozens of small flaws that is its undoing. Its biggest flaw is its Hallmark Channel movie-of-the-week appearance. Everything is squeaky clean and brightly lit. No dramatic shadows or gritty atmospheres here, nothing to break up the visual monotony for the next 155 minutes. And, as with such productions, there's melodramatic music constantly playing in every scene, over every dialogue, telegraphing how we're supposed to feel.
Second flaw: I haven't read the novel, but I can tell you this film feels like it's trying to pack too many plot elements into a tight bundle. Even at a whopping 2 hrs 35 minutes, it feels rushed, spanning 4 generations and at least a dozen major characters, all told in flashbacks of varying chronology. If you do the math, that's about 15 mins per character before moving on to the next. But actually the film is dominated by Lilly and her son Charles, thereby squeezing all the others down to maybe 8 mins each. Basically this film feels like the Reader's Digest condensed version of a story.
The next problem I had with this film is the music. You would think a film entitled "The Piano Man's Daughter" would have some compelling piano music in it. Instead there is just 1 simple melody consisting of exactly 15 notes, played over and over. And over. In fact it was played so many times in 180 minutes that I learned the notes by heart, and I'm not even a musician: D, F, Bb, A, G, F, D. (next phrase) D, F, C, Bb, C, D, F, D. Now repeat every 3 minutes for 2 1/2 hours.
Once in a while the melodramatic music would shut up long enough to let an actor say a few lines. But just as the moment is sinking in... yow! ...here come those 15 stupid notes again. I bet you could make a fun drinking game out of this movie. Every time those notes play, bottoms up. You & your friends will be hammered by the 2nd act.
Did I mention how the film is told in flashback? Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Heck, "Citizen Kane" was done like that. But the problem is that there's no consistent narrator. At first the narrator is Edie (Charles' grandmother) talking to Charles. Then it's Lilly (Charles' mother) talking to Charles. But then suddenly the narrator is Charles! Charles talking to Charles? Sure, why not. If you've been playing the drinking game you'll be too sloshed to notice by then.
Another problem: although the film spans 4 generations ending in 1930 presumably, everything looks like the same 1915 set, cars look the same, costumes the same, mannerisms the same. It made it very hard to follow the period changes. Also it doesn't help that there are frequent flashbacks-within-flashbacks. Is that even possible? Or does that violate the space-time continuum?
Despite all my gripes (and that skull-drilling music) I watched all 155 minutes hoping there would be a satisfying conclusion that brings everything together magically & poetically. Instead it just sorta came to a stop. The only satisfaction I got was the fact that those stupid 15 notes stopped with it.