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Review of 'The Piano'

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Introduction

Featuring rich symbolism and outstanding acting, this tale of a mute woman forced into an arranged marriage set in the 1800s has a lot to recommend about it, and is in some way deserving of the acclaim it received upon its release in 1993. But The Piano has several major flaws, which prevent it from being anything more than a good film. The movie starts with a voiceover by the protagonist Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter) giving us a little of her back-story; she hasn't spoken a word since the age of six, but she doesn't consider herself mute because her piano is her voice. To her it is more than a hobby, it is her most prized possession and she is understandably irritated when, upon her arrival in New Zealand, her new husband, Stewart (Sam Neil) ...read more.

Middle

Baines asks Ada to give him lessons, but Ada later learns that he will sell her back her piano in exchange for visits (one visit for every black key). Gradually, they start an affair, which is eventually discovered by Stewart, who snaps and makes Ada pay the price for her betrayal. Ada is trying to express herself in an oppressive situation, something that plenty of women could relate to. She's married by her father to an aloof, cold and frustrated member of civilized society, and is torn between him and Baines, more open about his feelings but crude about them. So far, so dramatic, but The Piano has several major flaws which prevent it from being anything more than a good film. ...read more.

Conclusion

Holly Hunter's performance is the strongest factor here, portraying a grim, mute woman in a three-dimensional character without uttering a syllable. Paquin, who won an Oscar at the age of 11 for her supporting role, does a good job as Ada's brattish daughter. However, too many questions are left unanswered; we are never told the real reason why Ada stopped speaking, and why exactly did she think it was a good idea to write a message on a piano key to someone who cannot read? What The Piano lacks is new and interesting ideas, and ultimately fails to hold your interest. It's intended to pull at the heartstrings but it's monotonous style failed to strike a chord with this viewer. ...read more.

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