Updated: Monday, 04 Jan 2010, 9:18 AM EST
Published : Monday, 04 Jan 2010, 12:48 AM EST
By FOX43tv.com's Film Reviewer, Stephanie Cooke
Nine is a film about a musical about a film. Are you with me? Director Rob Marshall (who did Chicago on the big screen) takes the Tony-award winning Broadway musical and makes a movie. The problem is that the 1982 Broadway musical was based on the 1963 film 8½ by Federico Fellini, which is essentially about nothing.
Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a famed Italian Director who has had a few flops and his inspiration is all dried up. He puts on a show for the staff and producer that he has a script and the pre-production goes on at break-neck speed. In the meantime, he does all he can to conjure up a story -- talks with his wife (Marion Cotillard). No help. Summons his mistress (Penelope Cruz). Nothing. Prays to his dead mother (Sophia Loren). Nada. He turns to an American fashion writer (Kate Hudson). Nope. He asks for help from a Cardinal and He summons the memory of the neighborhood woman of the night (Stacey "Fergie" Ferguson) from his childhood. Not a thing. He awaits the arrival of his favorite actress and star of his movies (Nicole Kidman) to inspire him. No such luck. Not even his friend and wardrober (Dame Judi Dench) can inspire him.
Along the way each of these encounters features a song and dance that propels us into the imagination of the director. I enjoyed almost all of the performances. Far and away Fergie's was the best. I wanted to jump up and applaud. I was also impressed with Kate Hudson's number, although in her go-go boots and mini skirt, I couldn't help thinking how much she reminded me of her mother dancing. My problem with musical movies is always that I feel like jumping up and applauding like I would seeing it on Broadway. But in a theater, nobody really wants to hear all that.
As the film draws to a close, his wife leaves him and he is forced to admit to the world that there is no script and therefore no movie. He goes into a self-imposed exile and realizes all that searching for help was the movie! And action! Off we go to start the movie, only we've already seen it.
Nine was written by Michael Tolkin and (the late) Anthony Minghella, based on the musical Nine and adapted from the film 8½ . My biggest problem with the film is that it felt as though I wasn't able to fully connect to the characters. It's as if each of the adaptations stripped away parts of the original characters. The numbers were really well done, but at the same time, didn't quite seem to get tied together by the rest of the story.
The film is beautiful. The costumes are perfect, the sets are extravagant and the location shots in Italy are gorgeous and so is Daniel Day-Lewis. I never thought of him as particularly handsome, but now I do. Despite his lack of being Italian, he plays Italian well. And Marion Cotillard draws out the only real emotion in the film. Nine has it's flaws, but is worth seeing.