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This time he has chosen Nine, a re-imagining of Federico Fellini's classic film 8 1/2. Already I am skeptical of the situation. I am fine with musicals. Some of the best films on celluloid have been musicals. What I have a problem with is the reworking of such a classic film like 8 1/2. It would take a lot of convincing to win me over. Unfortunately, it did not succeed.
Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Guido Contini, an Italian director who is planning on making the most important Italian film ever call Italia. The only problem is he hasn't written a script yet. To guide him he turns to the women in his life. His late mother (Sofia Loren), his wife Marion Cotillard, his mistress (Penelope Cruz), his costume designer and closest friend (Judi Dench), a fashion reporter (Kate Hudson), a childhood temptress Saraghina (Stacey "Fergie" Ferguson) and his leading lady (Nicole Kidman).
Contini tries to escape the pressure looming overhead by the media, his producers, and his cast and crew. He is constantly searching for the answer, bouncing around from one person to another. That's really all there is. He talks to people, sleeps around, and goes into his past.
Right off the bat there is a slight problem. There are too many women! Not just for Contini but for the audience. There are too many big name actresses with almost equal parts. Who is more important? Who should we side with? It seems like he has such a close relationship with some of them and hardly any with others, yet they all practically get the same amount of screen time. They all have at least one song to their own.
That is another problem with the film. The musical aspect is distracting from the story. The music for the most part is average. A few songs like "Be Italian" and the Oscar nominated "Take it All" are very good, but for the most part, it's all bells and whistles. Like he did with Chicago, Marshall takes us from the real world of dialogue to the imaginary world of singing and dancing. My issue with this is that he spends an almost equal amount of time in both places. With Chicago, there was more story divulged in the real world. Nine has too much singing and not enough story telling.
The musical numbers are impressive, in particular the two songs I mentioned. Fergie really flexes the golden pipes with "Be Italian," a fun and sexy number that for me was the highlight of the film. Cotillard's number was also one of the better ones. This was a more emotional struggle and was one of the few numbers I felt really connected with the story. Kidman and Cruz each have decent numbers, and Dench's number is a bit over the top. She is better with the real world scenes.
I guess Marshall tried to replicate what he did with Chicago but came up short. I never was invested with any of the characters and Lewis' performance was not quite what I was looking for. I would have loved to have seen Raul Julia, the original Guido Contini from the first Broadway production, or even Antonio Banderas in the revival. I think someone with a more musical background would have been a more acceptable choice, but nevertheless, Lewis does a fairly decent job.
Nine is an ambitious film, I'll give it that. Rob Marshall, the director of the Best Picture winner Chicago serves up a mix bag with Nine. The film feels like Marshall is trying to rekindle the magic he had with Chicago, he comes up short, specifically with the musical numbers. For everything that I liked about it, there were two things I didn't. Nine needs to be more focused and shorter for it to be a film I would recommend.
The film is about film-making, yet the way Marshall presents the film to us is in the style of a stage play. Everything from the set-pieces to lighting screams stage play. It was an interesting touch, but felt out of place because it dealt with the art of film-making so much. The musical numbers, all uninspiring and rather boring, even attest to this. With the exception of Fergie, who gives us the best song and dance number that uses sand in a creative way, all the other numbers are generic and rather 'not good'. When you have a Grammy winner singing a song and then have Kate Hudson sing one, there is a difference, and it is more noticeable than the filmmakers might have wanted.
Nine has a great cast, most of them are Oscar winners too. Daniel Day Lewis, with an amazing Italian accent, is the obvious stand out. He plays sexy and stressed all in one look. Penelope Cruz is the mistress, who has the sexiest scene of this movie, her career and this year. Her work in this film is pretty basic, the other lover who wants to be the one loved. With the exception of DDL, the only other actor that is given any kind of emotional depth is Marion Cotillard. She has to go through the realization that her husband is cheating on her and make the choice to stay or leave. Everyone else is pretty much there to fill up time and sing their one song. Judie Dench is the fashion designer and she plays a motherly figure, whereas Sophia Loren plays his actual mother, well his dead mother, but he still sees and talks to her. Fergie has her one scene in which she steals the show with her tune and then Nicole Kidman turns up at the end and makes you wince with her accent. Don't get me started on Kate Hudson.
The problem is that these are good actors, with just no material to work with. Daniel Day Lewis is great, but he's a hard character to connect with, he's sleeping around with a lot of women, it feels like half the cast. Emotional scenes don't play out as well as they should and the film drags itself to the finish line near the end. I found myself wanting it to end sooner and sooner, but it kept going.
On the plus side, the choreography is great and the cinematography really grabs you, even if it is a little misplace with it's stage feel. The film is well put together and the editing is well done. It weaves it's story in and out of timelines from Guido's life, during the musical numbers. The film isn't bad, but it didn't do anything for me either. Leaving a musical not tapping your toes or even remembering the tunes may be a bad sign. I liked it enough to give it a good rating, the cast and style are good enough for me to do so, but everything else makes me lean on the side of telling you to rent this. It's well made, but has no real heart and the film is a little on the long side, you may be checking your watch.
Performances: Let me first say that no actress delivered any less than they possibly could, and you could tell that the cast had worked their butts off during production.
The Great- Marion Cotillard in particular delivered what is sure to be one of the most understated performances in recent memory, as well as delivering the two most powerful and emotional numbers in the show. Penelope Cruz was SEXY, and as her character's story was wrapped up she beautifully portrayed a "mistreated mistress," so to speak. Judi Dench was fantastic as the background player in Guido's career, perfectly delivering wit while supporting her friend. Most importantly, these three worked so well because they were interlinked in each other's story, and as a result their plot lines flowed well into each other.
The OK- DDL and Sophia Loren were fine in their parts, simply filling out their roles and not seriously improving on or dragging down the movie in any way.
The Misused- Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, and Fergie were all criminally misused, although fantastic when on the screen. All three had stories that didn't synch with the movie, whether they be Kidman (who honestly needed a more fleshed out role that came in contact w/ other characters other than just Guido), Hudson (whose number really felt like it would have made more sense in the beginning of the movie), or Fergie ("Be Italian" felt shoehorned in and disconnected, and would have been a perfect opener or closing number). All three felt particularly disconnected from the film.
I can honestly say that not one of the players in Marshall's cast disappointed, but it was Marshall himself and the messy script (irony!) that jumbled up the movie and left me with a very disjointed, disconnected result. Each scene was Oscar-worthy, but they were only partially threaded together into a cohesive story.
Because i felt this way about it i was shocked to hear that such a large majority of critic's thought it was so mediocre and I became hesitant to see it in fear of disappointment.
Well, I did see it and let me tell you, there was nothing mediocre about it. It was a phenomenal movie. The dances and songs were beautiful, creative and very well performed. The storyline was very fresh and it kept the viewer interested in what Guido would do next because he was such a dynamic character. The women in his life were perfectly cast and fantastically played, especially Marion Cotillard, whom I had never heard of before this movie; it's fair to say she totally rocked her role instilling in me emotions that I never even knew I had. Penelope was ridiculously sexy yet still made the viewer empathize with her character. Nicole Kidman was great as the self-confident and inspiring muse. Daniel Day-Lewis was very believable in his role as the immature child trapped inside the older man's body named Guido, as his life spins out of control as reality finally begins to catch up with him.
The main problem that critics had with this movie was that it wasn't like Fredrico Fellini's 8 1/2 on which nine was based but they shouldn't be comparing the two. This is a whole new movie and should be viewed for what it is and to me Nine is the most entertaining movie of the year and I am looking forward to seeing it again.
The movie focuses on Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) as a famous movie director in Italy in 1965. He is having troubles developing his next movie. More so, he hasn't written a script. Even more so, he is having trouble even coming up with an idea for his movie. He had successful movies in the years past but now we are watching him struggle after a few major flops.
In his journey to make his next movie, he is having marital problems along with mistress problems. Add in Freudian issues with his deceased mother and his working relationship with his costume designer and his muse. Don't forget to include yet another potential affair outside of the one he is having with his mistress, plus there's the memory of an erotic lady on a beach from his youth (that's seven women total for those of you who are keeping score at home).
You know what is going to make this movie stand out from the crowd? It is the realistic singing by the actors. They are actors first and singers second (except for maybe Fergie who plays the erotic lady from Guido's youth but she didn't say much in the film, come to think of it I think she only sang). Since I don't know much about musicals and even less about how to sing properly, I could grasp the singing. The tunes they sang aren't the kind you are going to be singing on the way home because a lot of the songs were simply narrated lines being sung. When a character wanted to express his or her thoughts, they would sing their lines. Maybe that's what they do in all musicals like I said my experience here is limited.
The women. Oh, the women. They all performed wonderfully, and I don't just mean the singing. The female cast includes his wife (Marion Cotillard), his mistress (Penelope Cruz), his costume designer (Judi Dench), the woman from his childhood (Fergie), an American fashion designer (Kate Hudson), his muse (Nicole Kidman) and his mother (Sophia Loren). They brought emotion and life to the story through their singing and their lustful yet sensual moves. I would also like to note, as a guy, the women were the reason why I kept my attention focused for almost 2 hours. I don't even watch a football game this intensely.
Should you see this movie? Yes. But, don't go in expecting a musical you can sing along with or a movie that will leave you feeling giddy with love. It dealt with some very real issues about infidelity. I will say this, though, after seeing this movie I do know a little more about musicals. And, that's a good thing.
Having said all that, I honestly don't know who is the audience for this film. "Nine" was hardly the Broadway smash that "Dreamgirls", or "Chicago" was, and the score is entirely obscure. Additionally, do most people really care about the trials and tribulations of a self-involved, duplicitous 1960's-era Italian filmmaker? Does it matter? Do you have to actually like the protagonist to learn something from his experiences? Box-office-wise, this picture is going to live or die on the reviews, and people's interest in seeing these actresses shine. (I read here that Renee Zellwegger was under consideration for a role in this film... What a disaster that would have been!) And, of course, those who like seeing Daniel Day Lewis stretch new muscles (he chain smokes! He sings!) I enjoyed it very, very much... and now I'm very curious to see what the world thinks of it.
How clever and ironic that the film itself mirrors this!
In order to find inspiration, he looks to the women in his life, while they spring into song wearing basques and corsets.
All the songs sound the same.
I'm sticking my neck out here. I'll be chastised for criticising such a successful Broadway musical, with such a great cast. Don't get me wrong - the 1 star for this film is solely for Day Lewis - the man can act.
It looks fairly nice as well It doesn't stop this film being pointless, pretentious, nauseous drivel.
I can't remember any of the songs from the film, because they are completely dull, lifeless, pointless songs.
1/10 - AVOID. (Even though you'll all disagree with me - I stand by my opinion!)
As a musical, the best parts (and I use the term "best" very loosely here) of this film are when the cast aren't screeching out an unmemorable number. Seriously, you won't remember any of it other than the "Guido! Guido! Guido!" ringing in your ears.
Even having Penelope Cruz's scantily-covered crotch thrust into your face didn't improve things. The rest of the "all star" cast doesn't fair much better: Sophia Loren looks like an extra-terrestrial (no doubt from having one face-stretch too many), Daniel Day-Lewis is forgettable and is upstaged by his car (which, seriously, is the only interesting showpiece in the entire film), Nicole Kidman does practically nothing, Judy Dench is in her typical mother-hen role, and Fergie (who is apparently not the ex-member of the British Royal Family but a member of the Black Eyed Peas) I can't remember seeing. Must have slept through her performance, but presumably it must have been better than the rest since it didn't wake me up with its sheer awfulness.
How this film garnered no less than 5 Golden Globe nominations is a complete mystery. Even the cast members interviewed on Larry King looked bewildered - they must have been as surprised as I would have been if I had seen this mess.
It's rare that I feel the need to write a review. However, in this case I think I need to do so if only to save people from spending their money to watch this tripe. It certainly goes on my list of all-time worst movies that I've ever seen, along with Speed 2, and The Blair Witch Project. Rob Marshall has a lot to answer to for this crime against cinema - and for that matter, humanity.