A Look At One Of Last Year’s Nominees…

“Nine,” a few points shy of a perfect 10

I just finished “Nine” starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren and Kate Hudson. Oh and Fergie. Big cast. Big names. Lotsa Oscar winners.

I felt like Rob Marshall, the director of Oscar winning Chicago, was trying to one-up himself, and the only way he could think to do it was to overload the roster with Oscar clout and talent. This worked against the project.

There was so much talent jam-packed into the movie and so little time for these stars to shine, but that didn’t seem like the worst part. None of the performances lived up to the clout and I think the fault lies with the genre. Other than Kidman, these actors live in the spotlight of dramatic features. Singing and dancing was the forte of none.

NINE

The story was OK: a once-groundbreaking director has a lot to prove after two flops at the box office. His new movie begins shooting in 10 days and he hasn’t yet written the screenplay. Midlife crisis is splayed with his entire sexual past interweaved with shout-outs to his dead mother. (Sure blame it on mom.) Daniel Day Lewis would have been a great pick had this just been a drama, but I felt like his Guido Italiano was an impersonation. I didn’t buy it, but I don’t think that was all on him.

The truth is that these superb dramatic actors rule in their realm, but lack in musical theater. This picture would have been better with broadway performers. Of course, Rob Marshall pulled it off (casting film actors in lead roles) with Chicago, even though Renee Zellweger didn’t have the gusto to pull off the character Roxy Hart, Marshall lucked out with a better score and Catherine Zeta-Jones stealing the show. The music in “Nine” wasn’t nearly as good, and during Kate Hudson’s number, I felt like Marshall was trying to channel a white Beyonce music video. And Marion Cotillard’s number about her re-emerging sexuality: a Victoria’s Secret ad.

Overall, I think the moral of the story was good. Day-Lewis’ character is obviously a pathological liar with a 10-year-old’s attitude, and to be great at his craft, he needed to embrace it. I can respect that. I think, for me, that’s the moral of the movie in its entirety. Embrace what you are, masters of dramatic cinema, because when you don’t, it fails as Guido did. I wanna end with punny word play like David Bianculli does, but I’m stuck on “the irony is music to my ears…

2 Responses

  1. Kit van Cleave

    Kate Hudson’s number showed go-go dancing, which was the big fashion in the mid-1960s when NINE is supposed to be taking place. So it’s a mistake to see it as an attempt to present a “white Beyonce number.” If one looks carefully at NINE, the detail is there everywhere — Hudson’s eye makeup in the bar scene, everyone smoking, the background of the “cool” Rome which Guido Contini (Fellini, of course) created single-handedly with his films. NINE is a semioperatic movie in which the “arias” are character-driven, which has been going on in opera for 300 years and most recently since Sondheim in the American musical theatre. They are not “hummable” tunes, nor are they intended to be. They present the characters’ thoughts, memories, and fantasies — like soliloquies in Shakespeare. NINE won five Tonys on Broadway when it first premiered — including one for Best Score. So please, look at the film again.

    1. I think some movies fail to do their Broadway counterparts justice, and this may have been one of those instances. I know a lot can be lost in translation when Broadway shows go to the big screen. This also makes me hold a movie to a higher standard in that I hope, musically, little or nothing is lost.

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