California Literary Review

Movie Review: Nine


December 26th, 2009 at 12:34 pm

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Movie Poster: Nine

Directed by Rob Marshall
Screenplay by Michael Tolkin, Anthony Minghella
Based on the musical with book by Arthur L. Kopit
Music and lyrics by Maury Yeston

Guido Contini – Daniel Day-Lewis
Luisa Contini – Marion Cotillard
Carla – Penelope Cruz
Lilli – Judi Dench
Saraghina – Fergie
Stephanie – Kate Hudson
Claudia – Nicole Kidman
Mamma – Sophia Loren

CLR Rating: ★★½☆☆

Movie Still: Nine

Penelope Cruz stars in Rob Marshall’s Nine
[Photo by: David James © 2009 The Weinstein Co.]

Nine’s Fantastic Cast Can’t Save It From
Sloppy Pacing and Boring Music

Rob Marshall’s Chicago was a pitch-perfect Broadway-to-film adaptation that used the best of both mediums to create a film that left you smiling. No one really expected Marshall to duplicate that success with Nine, a movie based on the life of Federico Fellini and more full of Oscar nominated actors than almost any other movie this year—but with such talent as Sophia Loren, Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, and Marion Cotillard aboard, the movie could’ve been so much better. Poor pacing and unmemorable music are only the film’s most obvious flaws. All in all it’s a disappointment.

Rob Marshall takes a cue from Fellini’s 1963 classic (and he is certainly not the first nor the most talented director to do so), which is about a director with writer’s block whose imagination runs wild as he strives to compose another film. In Nine, Italian director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) wracks his brain for a script for his newest movie even as he does press conferences and begins costume design. His horrifically self-centered flailing draws his mind to all the women in his life, each of whom is given approximately fifteen minutes of screen time. His wife (Marion Cotillard), mistress (Penelope Cruz), mother (Sophia Loren), and costume mistress (Judi Dench) occupy the most time in his mind as well as onscreen. A whore he encountered as a child (Fergie), an American reporter he nearly beds (Kate Hudson), and his cinematic muse (Nicole Kidman) also dance in and out as he struggles for his latest greatest plot. With a cast like this, the movie should’ve been a triumph; Day-Lewis, Cruz, Dench, and Cotillard have won well-deserved Oscars in the last few years, and Loren is one of the screen’s original sirens. Unfortunately, most of these stellar acors perform no more than a few minutes’ worth of lines.

Day-Lewis is a notorious method actor, and he adopts a kind of stoop, shoving his hands in his pockets and donning shades and a fedora as he tries to slouch past the constant onslaught of paparazzi that follow his every move. Though he seems to be a born performer, he’s not really built for singing, and while his numbers aren’t terrible, they’re not good either. Kidman’s chops as a singer and dancer were already tested to fine results in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, and she holds her own as Claudia. Dench is a pleasure to watch in her role as dour costume mistress Lilli and her song “Folies Bergére,” largely because the woman is incredibly versatile and genuinely seems to enjoy her turn as songstress. Kate Hudson, whose thin physique and bouffant fit perfectly in the mod styling of the era, either can’t dance well or is not given the chance; her number’s a miniskirt-and-skinny-tie-clad disaster. Marion Cotillard is perhaps the film’s brightest star as Guido’s long-suffering wife Luisa. As Luisa realizes the extent of her husband’s philandering, Cotillard drowns herself in the role. It doesn’t hurt that the actress is achingly beautiful, nor that her song-and-dance number is the sexiest and also the saddest in the film. She pulls these elements together with utter aplomb. The Black Eyed Peas’ lead singer Fergie also shines as Saraghina, a whore who helped shape Guido’s approach to women—but she is of course a singer and not an actress.

Marshall apparently strove for the early 60s New Wave Cinema feel, which relied heavily on shaky camerawork and frenetic editing—except during musical numbers, which are proscribed so heavily as to be cloying. As the filmmakers strove to pay homage to 1960s Italian cinema, they lost the meaning behind the art, leaving a messy result. Chicago touched all the right buttons as it jumped from reality to imagination and back, then deftly wove the two together. Nine slides clumsily back and forth between Guido’s self-absorbed womanizing and the imaginary world in which he’s the center of each woman’s world. The movie fails to knit together its fantastic and authentic elements as artfully as Marshall’s last film, and the pacing doesn’t help: though it may be reasonable to assume each woman is allotted about fifteen minutes of time in Guido’s overworked brain, that doesn’t help the film move along. Instead it leaves a trail of loose ends. The film’s music is also utterly unmemorable, which in itself is a death knell for a musical.

Critics and audiences alike had high hopes for Nine as a worthy Oscar contender this year. A cast of solidly great actors should’ve built a strong foundation for homage to a Fellini film, but the end result is a house of cards, some sections weaker than others, the whole of which collapses under the slightest pressure. Marshall has a lot to live up to after Chicago, and hopefully his next film will fare better.

Nine Trailer

  • A.M.

    Looks like crap. Wouldn’t see it if it were free.

  • linda l

    saw this movie today.
    did not like it.
    and all these critics who are praising it are pretentious liars.

  • karl

    The worst movie of a musical ever. Rob Marshall should be ashamed of this miscalculated piece of trash, and such a pity the talents of so many great actors were abused in this way..
    don’t waste your money or time

  • beverly

    Saw it last night 12/26/2009. What a disappointment……horrible!

  • Marcio

    I saw it… terrible… I slept on the middle… I hope it wont get any nominations for the oscar 2009.

  • allroundguide

    “Nine”the movie is 9x better than the original 8 1/2 by Fellini. The performances of the cast in the musical numbers were extraordinary. Thank you Maestro Rob Marshall for coaxing such performances from your actors. The music is not memorable; however, the images from this movie still linger in my mind. I think Fellini would have enjoyed this rendition of his cinematic visions.

  • max

    Nine is a Three. Daniel Day Lewis is a dream but in a terrible movie.
    The musical numbers are loud and vulgar.

  • Amy & Lex

    Still don’t know what the significance of the title is. Saw it. Didn’t like it. Kate Hudson is still gorgeous though.

  • JOJO

    Looks like dookie, won’t waste my time.

  • Margie

    I was anxious to see a musical! I thought that with the actors in it, it would be good. I wish they would have paid me to go see it. I may have felt a little redeeming sense of sitting there for that long, long, time of no, plot, no good music lyrics! I felt like I was a victim of the movie business saying; Lets make a quick movie to make some quick money off of innocent people wanting to see a musical. A What? I think a 5th grader could have done better with the script.

  • Gretch

    We walked out! It was sooo boring and the songs were way too long. How many shots can you stand of Daniel Day-Lewis lighting a smoke?

  • http://none Susan Wall

    I saw and loved it!It was really art in my opinion I didn’t have a preconceived attitude and was impressed.

  • Michele

    I saw it with a friend , and we both thought it was GREAT !!!! Guess people want sex, drugs,and rock n roll instead .

  • Jane

    I loved it. It was aesthetically pleasing and stylish. It was pleasing to view. The songs were catchy, and I do not see them attempting to be anything but. I do not see why people do not like it. How could have it been better?

  • Jane

    And the significance of the number nine in the movie, is the film he results making supposed to be his ninth film? I thought it had been said that he had seven successes and then two flops. Was it six successes?

  • Sally Horwatt

    Movies about self-absorbed tortured geniuses are so 60’s. Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren were wonderful in their all-too-short roles. We were able to watch the movie for free thanks to a an academy-voting-neighbor who received the DVD for that purpose. That and the facts that we could keep pausing it to get snacks, answer mobile phone calls and go to the john were the only redeeming features.

  • ronda feiner

    Nine was one of the best movies my friend ever saw. It is an american Opera,a musical comedy, a drama and a tragic story.
    Can you imagine Judy Dench at her age being shown as a sexual woman? How wonderful! Penelope Cruz was doing everything she could to be loved and wanted. She was a tragic figure. Daniel Day Lewis was a tortured man and was his wife. Sofia Loren did a tribute to Fellini by appearing in the movie!
    The music was extrodinary! As was the dancing and acting! What did people not see about this movie. The emotional gamut of laughter to tears! I hope it is an Oscar nominee even if it is or hasn’t been a popular “find”.

  • ccl

    Not catchy? I loved the songs. Most of them. Though I do agree a few scenes were somewhat unnesscary like Sophia Lorens’, Nicole Kidman’s and Penelope Cruz’s seemed sort of pointless in the film version.

    Saying all this, I don’t really understand what was so TERRIBLE about this film. I loved it! But then again, I’m kind of immediately bias to a film with extraordinary cinematography which is the one thing it had, i think, that there is no dispute about. Just every frame.

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