Nine (2009) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Nine (2009)

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Danny DISLIKEWhy did I watch this movie? It's based on Fellini's 8 1/2, which I haven't watched in a decade and have little desire to revisit. Nine is based on a Broadway musical that I've never heard of that opened and closed before I was born. The director, Rob Marshall, is the man behind Chicago, probably the worst and most dreadful theater going experiences of my life and, for my money, the worst Best Picture Winner in the last two decades. So, yep, don't know why I'm watching this.

Oh wait, Penelope Cruz spends most of the film in lingerie. There we are.

Actually, Nine has a whole galaxy of stars undulating in their underwear. You have Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Fergie, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench... well, she keeps her clothes on, but I doubt Marshall could make the aged matriarch look any worse than he does the rest of the starlets. Though he has some of the most attractive actresses in the business lounging around in their delicates, he films them with the level of sensuality and style one would normally associate with a Hanes underwear advertisement. In fact, the average Hanes advertisement has better music.

Okay, okay, women racing around in their undies isn't why this movie was made, and it's unfair for me to focus on it, despite the sheer amount of silk being thrown at the camera lens. This film is the story of Guido, an Italian film director with a comically bad Italian accent; he's played by Daniel Day Lewis with a modicum of charm and wit but mostly cigarettes and a panicky madness.

He's started production of his new film while still lacking a script. His loyal costume designer, played by Dame Dench, insists that directing is simply knowing the correct times to answer either yes or no. Dench plays his close adviser through the film as well as on-set reanimated corpse.

While Guido is panicking about the film (chanting things like "Page one... page one... page nothing!" in a delusionally insipid way), he decides to depart and hide in a seaside resort. He calls to his mistress, played by Cruz, and soon we're hearing the name Guido sung repeatedly in ways not normally heard outside of Roman cat houses late Saturday night. Cruz's number involves her performing with all the blush of a burlesque beauty and, while hardly unsubtle, her routine has all the eroticism of a late night phone-sex line radio commercial.

As his mistress appears, soon the rest of the film crew arrives, and even Guido's suffering wife, played by recent Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, makes a showing just to had to the hectic aura of his life. Even a sexy reporter he ran into earlier, via Kate Hudson, comes a calling at his bedposts, and all of it turns what was hoped to be his writer's retreat into a full blown circus.

We get glimpses into his past; his mother, Sophia Loren (still alive!), sings him a ballad, and the beautiful prostitute he encountered by the surf in his younger days comes played by Fergie, who looks remarkably like Kirstie Alley if you squint just a little. In this films she is about as sexy as smacking a tambourine across your snatch. Uh, which she does here. Uh huh.

And we get songs. Each woman in Guido's life (I don't know why there aren't nine of them but I'm glad there weren't) gets their own number on a variety of subjects. From the opening number, which I can only imagine was titled "La la la la la LA LA," to, uh, all the rest, the film is filled brim to brim with forgettable music filled with irritatingly awful lyrics. I wish I'd written more down, but when you have such incongruities coming from Guido like, "I'd like to be Christ, Mohamed, and Buddha but not believe in God!" you know you have a lyricist who moonlights as the unofficial worst goddamn poet in the world.

For all of these numbers to work, the movie would have had to develop some form of momentum, and the fractured structure and intrusively boring numbers prevent this handily. The whole movie is a collision of artifices, none of which seem to work, with a great deal of detail being wasted on a great deal of nothing.

Spiritually, the film can best be described as an Oscar ringer. Not surprising, since it comes from the Weinstein brothers who I'm sure wanted to legitimize some of the horrible films they've made lately. Besides getting Dench and Marshall, who both owe their wins to the brothers, they also go the extra Oscar bait route by 1) trying to rehabilitate an old show that was critically maligned, 2) took something based on one of the most acclaimed films of all time thus appealing to film snobs, and 3) casting an old actress who lacks a statue in a small role in a bid to get her an Oscar more for her career achievements. Here that's Sophia Loren; blink and you'll miss her.

But in all honesty, this film is much more akin to Showgirls than Chicago; it's shameless, shallow, coarse material that steals from a great film and dares you to not call it art. It has all the class and sophistication of a fecal finger painting on top of the Mona Lisa.

Of all the performers, Marion Collard almost escapes with some dignity, but, nope, even that falls through when she gets to do a striptease. She leaves the harried Guido, and he has an epiphany: to win his wife back he puts on a production of...

Oh no. They didn't.

They did. They put on a production of the movie you've just watched.

To be honest, if I were Cotillard and had to survive not only that marriage and to sit through that movie again, I'd bone up on my gun ownership laws. But quick.

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Nine (2009)

This film (IMDB) is currently available on DVD.

Directed by Rob Marshall
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, Fergie, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, and Clyde

Posted by Danny

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