Wednesday, January 20, 2010

NINE (2009)

Written by Michael Tolkin and Anthony Minghella

Directed by Rob Marshall

Where & When: Fairfax Cinemas, Los Angeles, CA. January 16, 2010 7:40PM

I'm sure that on paper, "Nine" sounded like a "can't miss" project with a winning recipe: you take the successful Broadway musical which was based on the classic Fellini film, "8 1/2", sprinkle in the award winning director of the 2002 Academy award winning musical film, "Chicago" and mix thoroughly with several Oscar winning actors and you will come up with something that everyone will enjoy. Unfortunately, "Nine" has arrived very flat and not very tasty.

Guido Contini, (Daniel Day-Lewis) a famous Italian film director who has committed to making his next film, "Italia" that will star film sensation and his muse, Claudia Jenssen (Nicole Kidman) although he is actually unable to write it. He is struggling with writer's block as his crew is building sets and creating costumes for an unknown project. Guido confides to his friend and costume designer, Lilli La Fleur (Judi Dench) that he is stuck and stressed out but she doesn't have much sympathy.

Memories from Guido's past haunts him that include his Mamma (Sophia Loren) and Saraghina, (Fergie) a prostitute who aroused his curiosity as a boy.

Guido takes off to a hotel along the Amalfi Coast. He's gone there to rest and help try to clear his head. Guido calls his wife, Luisa, (Marion Cotillard) a former actress, to let her know where he is and what's going on. She offers to come out but he tells her that he will be fine. The real reason is because he sent for his married mistress, Carla (Penelope Cruz) to come and keep him company. He is at least smart enough not to have her stay with him at his hotel much to Carla's disappointment.

Soon, Guido's producer and the heads of his film crew come to the hotel to work on the film but unbeknown to Guido, they also call Luisa to come and try to help. She discovers that Guido has not been alone and is fed up with his behaviour. He meets a flirty, American Vogue journalist (Kate Hudson) at the hotel bar. He is tempted by her charms but decides to go back to his wife to try and repair the damage.

They all soon return to Rome to begin to piece together the movie. Claudia Jenssen arrives to begin work on the film but is annoyed to still not have a script. Realizing this film is a lost cause, Claudia walks away from the project just as Guido's wife walks away from their marriage.

First, let me start with what I liked about this film because it will be brief. I really loved Judi Dench's musical number, "Folies Bergere" and I think it was the best performance in this film. This was mainly because she was the only one who seemed to be having any fun.

I also liked both of Ms Cotillard's numbers, " My Husband Makes Movies" and "Take It All" and Ms Cruz's "A Call From The Vatican" and Ms Hudson's original film song, "Cinema Italiano" were adequate. Although Fergie is the only true singer and gives a good musical performance, the staging of her number, "Be Italian" with all that sand is cheap looking and just really bad.

The major problem of the film, in a way is surprising but not really, is the casting of Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido. He is a great actor but he can't sing well, he can barely move his hips and he's about as Italian as I am. Three big strikes against him being convincing in a movie musical about Italians. I know Mr. Day-Lewis was up for the challenge but this was way beyond his abilities.

As for the ladies, well, nobody really embarrasses themselves but I think that is because most of them don't have anything to do. Beyond their musical numbers, Ms Kidman and Ms Hudson are on screen for just minutes and Fergie doesn't say one word. I am also happy to report that nobody is in the painful "Pierce Bronson" style of singing although Ms Loren is precariously close.

I think that Mr. Marshall didn't have a clear vision on how to put "Nine" together so this would work as a proper film musical and trying to simply repeat what he created for "Chicago" on this film was a fatal error. Most of the songs are not memorable enough and loading the film with untrained movie stars to sing them just makes it more obvious. In fact, it sort of seems that the stars were used to distract from the shortcomings of this musical and to make up for the lack of direction that this film has.

The screenplay doesn't help much either. In between the songs, nobody has nothing really interesting to say and none of the female characters are fully developed. For a film that is clearly supposed to be a big, sexy and colorful spectacle, it's too serious, dull and lifeless. "Nine" is a big disappointment and this film would have definitely would have been on the list of my least favorite films of 2009.