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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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NINE Trailer with Day-Lewis, Kidman, Cruz and More

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From L: Dench, Cruz, Cotillard, Loren, Ferguson (in front), Kidman, Hudson

I seriously dislike musicals and didn’t like Fellini’s 8 1/2 much, either. But Nine, the musical version of that Italian film coming out this November, is one of the movies I’m most eagerly anticipating this year. Why? First off, Daniel Day-Lewis is in it. That man can do anything and he’ll apparently be singing and dancing here. Can’t wait to see that.

As extra incentive, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz, Dame Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson and Fergie, er, Stacy Ferguson also show up to display their jazz hands. The title of the movie might as well stand for how many Oscar winners are in the cast.

And they’re all being directed by Rob Marshall, which excites me because I really enjoyed Chicago despite my aforementioned lack of love for the musical. This man turned the usually wooden Richard Gere into a dashing musical performer—imagine what he can do with Day-Lewis—and got Catherine Zeta-Jones an Oscar. Since most cast members this time are already Oscar-winners, how high can they go?

From what I hazily remember about the original, the story is about a director who’s experiencing a creative block while directing his ninth film (8 1/2 because he only co-directed one of the films). Compounding this problem are personal issues he has with the many women in his lives, some in the present and some in the past. And there were a bunch of confusing dream sequences.

Anyway, check out the trailer below and tell me what you think. Fergie’s doing the singing, Kidman’s doing the kissing, Hudson’s doing the booty-shaking and Cruz is doing that really flexible thing with her leg. (UPDATE: See new trailer and hear Kate Hudson & Marion Cotillard sing here.)