With an all star cast, fantastic score, excellent cinematography and an Oscar winning Director on board, what could go wrong?
Plenty. I had high hopes for Nine, being a fan of Rob Marshall’s previous work, Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha, and just being a jolly fan of musicals. This film has plenty of great scenes, just not enough to make a great film. Nine is about Guido Cotini (Daniel Day-Lewis), an Italian Director that has made some fantastic movies in the past and lately has come out with a few “flops.” He is in the midst of making his next film, “Italia,” only he hasn’t even begun on a script yet. There is so much pressure on him to succeed this time and he can’t seem to find any inspiration. He is toiling with the career he loves and the life he can’t control anymore. All of the women in the film play a pivotal part in his life. Marion Cotillard plays his devoted wife, Luisa, who gave up her life of acting to be by his side. She sees much more of him than he would care to reveal. Cotillard is fantastic as the somber wife with sparkling eyes for Guido. Her singing and choreography are well executed, even if her songs were not the most exciting. Penelope Cruz plays his mistress, Carla, who is deeply in love with Guido as well and happens to be married herself. She will devote her life to him, if only he will return the love. Cruz was so passionate, as she always is, and she brings life to the screen when she shares a scene with Guido. A phone conversation of phone sex with Guido turned into the most interesting song and dance by Cruz, and it is definitely titillating. Kate Hudson plays an American fashion critic for Vogue magazine who is fascinated with Guido and showers him with compliments and has one ultimate goal, getting him into bed. I haven’t really seen a Kate Hudson I liked so much since Almost Famous. She is very mature, but still bubbly in Nine. I thought that she was underused a bit, as she only has one real scene. Nicole Kidman is Claudia, Guido’s muse and as she inspires him behind the camera, being the lead in many of his films, they seem to inspire each other behind closed doors as well. Kidman is a throw away character for me. I know that she can sing from watching Moulin Rouge a hundred times, but her song fell so flat, I just wanted it to end. I also didn’t care that she and Guido had a fling together. She was mentioned a lot in the film, but there really was no chemistry when she arrived. Fergie plays an old memory of Guido, the first whore he ever encountered. She is dirty and raw and shapes young Guido into the man whore he has become. Fergie was probably my favorite in the film. She packed on some weight for this role to look as voluptuous as possible and it worked. She was also the best singer by far, and not surprising. Her acting is really yet to be seen, as she just sang in the film, but the intensity in her eyes gives me hope that she will continue to act. Judi Dench plays Lilli, his costume designer for his films and has become his confidant for all confessions which no one else knows about him. Dench was a light in dull parts. She provided humor at times and seemed to make us feel as if we were all part of an inside joke when it comes to understanding movies. She performed so well, she schooled everyone else on the screen. Sophia Loren plays the memory of his Mamma and consoles him when he is down. I know that Loren is an Oscar winning actress and has come so far, but her face can’t possibly go back any farther. Her parts were small as well, but well acted. Her plastic surgery just distracted me so much that I could not see the character. That may seem like a lot to keep track of but it flows pretty easily from one woman to the next. Every one of these well renowned actresses sings their own songs for the film surprisingly well. What is not fair is that some songs are night and day better than others. Some of my favorite numbers were “Follies Bergeres” sang in French by Dame Judi Dench. This was an exciting song in the first thirty minutes that you think sets the stage for what’s to come. Dench sung this with such gusto and in a corset! The song had me smiling and my eyes drenched in color. The other song that amazed me was Fergie singing, “Be Italian.” The song flips back and forth from Guido’s memory of Saraghina to his imagination of her today where she is singing on stage with about twenty back up girls to add to the scene. The scene is a vibrant red and a strong contrast to his black and white memory, but the sand on the beach in his memory tie the two together appearing in his imagination and becoming a part of the song in a way that is hard to describe. No one can doubt that the cinematography is excellent in the film, the problem is the lack of story to back it up. It appears that Marshall spent so much time on the look of the film, that the story fell flat. It’s not due to the acting either, Day-Lewis as Cotini was stimulating. The problem came when Marshall didn’t follow the rules of making movies, clearly stated in the film, by Lilli. “Make it fun, people want to laugh and love.” The film is an assortment of Cotini’s memories and imagination with a sprinkling of his real life in between. The viewer never learns to care about the real life and the problems he is faced with. I only wanted more fantastic songs on a grand production scale. He is suffering from so many dilemmas, but I never felt the grandeur of them, as Cotini played it so cool and seemed to retreat to his own imagination for song, more often than not. There are so many things that I loved in Nine, that it makes it hard to talk it down. I wanted to like it so much. The first half hour had me excited and intrigued, and after that, problems in Cotini’s life began and the movie started to sink and it never recovered for me. There were so many things done right, but yet, it bored me through the end. I loved the symbolism of the dark empty stage representing Cotini’s mind, his imagination. This is where all of the songs take place. He incorporates things from a real life conversation or a memory into the imagination on the stage, it was brilliant. The use of color to invoke a mood or emotion was well done. The song that Kate Hudson sang, was vibrant and most of it was black and white. With the shake of her hips, color would pop onto the screen and just like that, it would be gone again. The costumes were great and very dynamic. The use of so many textures keeps your eyes very interested. The locations of Italy and Rome are fantastic and so nostalgic somehow. Yet, somehow, this movie has failed at what it set out to do, entertain. Even with the great first half hour, and all that was mentioned above, I felt myself slipping into a slight depression with this film. The songs become more melancholic and morbid and the arc of the story seems to fly through in a matter of moments. The organization of this story is where the fault lies. The concentration of style over story is a problem in the end. As Mamma says to Cotini with all of his problems occurring, “No one can help you find your way, it is up to you.” Ironic, how symbolic this statement is to the film itself and almost a self-slap in Marshall’s face. This has gotten Oscar buzz already, so will it be a contender? Most likely, but hopefully not for best screenplay or overall best movie.
I give Nine 2 “Lost Directors” out of 5.
by Angela Davis