Nine (The Weinstein Company, PG-13)

film_nine_sm.gifIn a career-worst performance, Daniel Day-Lewis plays Guido Contini who is making a film with no plot.


I try not to make up my mind about movies before I see them, no matter how much signs might point at the likelihood of my not liking it. So when the opportunity presented itself for me to see Nine, the new musical by Rob Marshall whose 2002 Best Picture-winning Chicago I despised, I tried to focus on its cast rather than its director. Daniel Day-Lewis, Penélope Cruz, Marion Cotillard…maybe it will be okay, right?

Nope. It sucks. Not quite as bad as Chicago sucked, but it is still a pretty awful, gaudy, nonsensical, undisciplined wreck of a movie. What’s weird about it is that it flaunts how little sense it all makes—the whole effect of the film is a pride in its hodgepodge of scenes, with as little plot as possible to tie it all together.

In a career-worst performance, Day-Lewis plays Guido Contini (I can’t top a recent user comment on the New York Times‘ review of the film: "Day-Lewis is about as Italian as Olive Garden’s food"), a stand-in for Federico Fellini, who is making a film with no plot called Italia. Making this film with no plot is ostensibly Nine‘s plot, though it focuses 8 ½-style on the women in Contini’s life rather than the film that he is trying to make. The women include his wife Luisa (Cotillard), his star Claudia (Nicole Kidman), his mistress Carla (Cruz), his costume designer Lilli (Judi Dench), the prostitute of his childhood dreams Saraghina (Fergie), and an American fashion reporter Stephanie (Kate Hudson). Despite the relative talent and/or charisma of some of these actresses, only Cotillard comes off okay, but to her credit, she doesn’t only come off okay; she’s completely heartbreaking. If there’s any reason to see this film it’s for her, and not Fergie’s drag queen vamp of "Be Italian," as some people would have you believe.

Cotillard’s performance aside, there are some other things about Nine that make it approach tolerable, namely the beauty of its cast and the Italian countryside. Also, the closing credits, while sometimes feeling too much like a trailer for the movie you just saw, are kind of cool in their showing rehearsal footage from the film’s big song-and-dance numbers. Still, these things hardly make up for this over-produced, over-choreographed, over-budgeted nonsense. I hate Baz Luhrman, but I admit that his films tend to be full of ideas…it’s just that I never think his ideas are of any merit. And then here comes Rob Marshall once every couple of years, all ready to steal Luhrman’s worst traits and use them to spit out some of the most insultingly vapid and self-satisfied crap to hit the big screen.

Toward the end of the movie, Contini has a meltdown and shuts down production on Italia, saying, "There is no movie; we have to stop." Too bad the producers of Nine didn’t have the same epiphany during its production. | Pete Timmermann


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