Movie Review: NINE

Nine (and the movie 8 ½, on which it’s based) is about a writer/director who has a hard time coming up with a story for his latest film. It’s ironic, then, that Nine, written by Michael Tolkin and the late Anthony Minghella, also seems to be lacking a plot of its own.

Daniel Day-Lewis plays the auteur, Guido Contini, who’s having a breakdown since his movie Italia is supposed to go into production within days but he still hasn’t written one word. His leading actress, international star Claudia (Nicole Kidman), is getting impatient and demanding to see a script. He’s haunted by memories of the women in his life, including his mother (Sophie Loren) and a prostitute he knew when he was a boy (Fergie). In the real world, he continues his dalliance with mistress Carla (Penélope Cruz) despite telling his long-suffering wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard) the affair is over.

Rob Marshall said during the post-Variety-screening Q & A that he thought long and hard about how to integrate the musical numbers into the movie. On that level, he succeeded; the songs are interwoven well and don’t really disrupt the story’s pacing.

Trouble is, there’s not much plot to interrupt. It’s mostly about what’s going on in Guido’s head and since he comes across as a self-absorbed, lying, cheating bastard, I couldn’t sympathize with him. He hasn’t earned the self-pity because his misery is of his own doing. It’s not Day-Lewis’s fault; he gives a consummate performance as usual. His Italian accent is spot-on and his singing robust (is there anything he can’t do?). The problem lies more with the character and this was partly why I also disliked Fellini’s film: Guido is a whiny little boy.

As for the all-star female lineup, Cotillard, Cruz and Dench come through most spectacularly. Cotillard is wistful and heartbreaking at first then busts out the sexy in “Take It All,” doing a striptease and letting Guido know she’s done being the accommodating little wife. Cruz scorches the screen in her “A Call from the Vatican” number, with her, um, gymnastic moves. She’s also emotionally flexible, going from vixen to little girl lost, and somehow manages to make me feel sorry for her adulterous Carla. And Dench, as Guido’s confidante Lilli, displays a fun side and hearty voice along with her usual gravitas.

Kate Hudson also knocked my socks off, singing and dancing with abandon in the movie’s catchiest number, “Cinema Italiano,” but her Vogue reporter is otherwise given nothing to do. Likewise Fergie’s Saraghina. Although this character was in Fellini’s movie and Fergie attacks “Be Italian” with impressive ferocity, the prostitute from Guido’s past has no usefulness here. Kidman looks great but this version of Claudia could have easily been played by any other beautiful actress with a passable singing voice.

The costumes are dazzling, the dancing and singing energetic, but I’m afraid I’m not in love with this Cinema Marshalliano.

Nerd verdict: Nine‘s a 6 on scale of 1 to 10

All photos by David James © The Weinstein Co.

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13 responses to “Movie Review: NINE

  1. So, would you go so far as to call it a Cinema MESS-liano?

    It so sad to read NINE isn’t a 9. But not surprising. That much talent in one film rarely gets fully utilized. The trailer really made me excited though.

    Wish it could have delivered on its promise.

  2. Well, to be fair, I wasn’t planning to see it for the plot. JK!!

    I loved CHICAGO, (and, yes, I am a heterosexual man) so I thought this would be along those lines as far as entertainment value. Sorry to hear it’s not.

    What does it say about the state of the entertainment industry when a gay man can’t make a great musical with some of the hottest women in world?

    Maybe I will continue to satisfy myself with just the trailers online.

    • I loved CHICAGO, too. I don’t know that it’s Marshall’s fault this isn’t great; it has no plot and he didn’t write the script or stage the original Broadway show.

  3. Are you serious? Man!!!

    I thought for sure this would be something worth the price of admission.

    The last movie I saw worth seeing anyway was UP IN THE AIR.

    Will it have ANY competition at the Oscars?

    Screw it, I’m going to see that trailer again.

  4. Anthony Minghella. Oof. As far as I’m concerned, just seeing his name on a project gives it the kiss of death.

  5. Well, I’m sorry to hear it’s not up to snuff, but for a change, I’m going to see it anyway. I can’t resist, even if it’s a disappointment. Thanks for the composed and unbiased review, PCN!

  6. I will probably still see this to cover those films with Oscar wishes (even though I’m not a Rob Marshall fan).

    He’s haunted by memories of the women in his life, including his mother (Sophie Loren)…

    I’m still trying to get over this one casting concept. Loren, the epitome of sultry Italian womanhood plays Day-Lewis’ (the Brit) mother? Hmm… I’m finding it hard to imagine that one. Oh, well. Thanks for the review and heads up, PCN. I got a busy movie weekend in rainy L.A. The Princess and the Frog, Up in the Air, and Invictus. Are you taking in the other two?

    • Believe it or not, I didn’t have a problem buying DDL as Italian. I just didn’t like his character.

      I’m not seeing Princess and Invictus this weekend because I’m so cheap, I’ll wait for a free screening. Went to a screening last night of It’s Complicated and enjoyed it. It’s the kind of movie I think SWMBO would like. Will post full review soon.

  7. Thanks for the review, dear PCN!
    What a shame the movie is not a great one… This is so disappointing!
    I guess I’ll go and see it anyway, at least for the brillant casting and the musical numbers.
    And who knows, now that my expectations have collapsed, I could even be pleasantly surprised!… 😉

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