Friday, December 18, 2009

Movie with Abe: Nine

Directed by Rob Marshall
Released December 18, 2009

There’s something awfully familiar about “Nine.” Like director Rob Marshall’s 2002 hit “Chicago,” it exists in a world where seemingly powerful men are actually almost invisible and a whole host of women dominate their lives. Like the 1979 film “All That Jazz,” it tells the story of an aging, revered director who watches as he is hopeless to direct the show of his life, which is sung at him by all the people he used to know and who he helped to create. His work is out of his hands, and that’s a fascinating thing to see. The fact that it’s been seen before isn’t a real problem, but the film is hardly as cohesively strong as some of its musical numbers.

There are indisputably several great scenes in “Nine.” Each spotlights one performer, to the point that it feels disjointed since the powerless Guido (Daniel Day-Lewis) is the only one present in almost all of them. It’s the story of Guido’s past and present splintered into the women – his mother, his wife, his mistress, his lead actress, his costume designer – who have defined his life. It’s made implicitly clear that the musical numbers are to be taken as Guido imagining and visualizing the moments in his life, as they are interspersed with scenes of actual events, where only in his head is Guido actually singing away at hounding reporters or serenading one of his beloved ladies in a moment of anguish. The ensemble of dancers is absolutely impressive, but all of the singing actresses seem woefully unaware of each other because they aren’t really given a chance to interact, only to alternate places in the mind of their maestro.

The actresses, however, still bring down the house, each in their own show-stopping numbers representing the many faces of Guido, with the help of a spectacular soundtrack. Penelope Cruz delights and charms as Guido’s over-the-top mistress, and “A Call to The Vatican” is a terrific number that introduces audiences to her life of excess and relationship to the esteemed director. Judi Dench, seen as Guido’s mentor throughout the film, commands the screen in the entertaining “Folies Bergère,” where she reminds Guido of his initial delight at the world of entertainment. Fergie is fierce and fantastic as a seductress who sings “Be Italian” and stresses the unique appeal of Italians. Kate Hudson is the lone American, but still sparkles as a journalist that sings “Cinema Italiano,” a great addition written for the film. And Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose")croons a lovely ode to her loneliness as Guido’s long-suffering wife, “My Husband Makes Movies.” Sophia Loren and Nicole Kidman round out a top-notch cast that shines individually but isn’t given much opportunity to interact.

Among all of the ladies, there is powerhouse actor Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido. While it’s hardly a performance worthy of comparison to his roles in “Gangs of New York” or “There Will Be Blood,” it’s nonetheless an impressive transformation into this Italian director so obsessed with himself that he doesn’t even have any idea what to do next. But, like the rest of the film, the most extraordinary moments for Day-Lewis come when he is singing, particularly the early number “Guido’s Song.” The film certainly contains endearing visuals of Italy, but it’s when everyone breaks out into song that the film really scores, and the rest just can’t quite live up to that.



Greg Boyd said...

Pity. Marshall's "Chicago" was one of my favorite films of the decade, so I was hoping this would be as good. Still looks worth seeing, though.

Movies with Abe said...

It is still worth seeing, and if you enjoyed "Chicago," you'll probably like this one too.