Nine | Rob Marshall, 2009
When I sat down to watch this, I decided that I was going to judge this movie on it’s own merits despite the fact that it is a musical version of 8 1/2, one of my favorite movies of all time. Yet, as I sat there, I could not help but do it. So many shots are so similar despite that they are from different directors, and it overall takes a different approach to the story. So, in the end I was left with an entertaining movie that lacked the emotional depth of the original source.
Like 8 1/2, Nine follows Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), a famous director who has hit a creative slump. There are high expectation for his latest film, Italia, but he doesn’t even have a script, and he’s supposed to start shooting it in 10 days. In addition to this, he is having problems with his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard), he has a mistress, Carla (Penelope Cruz), he is having problems getting his muse Claudia (Nicole Kidman) to make the film because he doesn’t have a script yet, there is an American reporter (Kate Hudson) after him, and he is seeing his dead mother (Sophia Loren). Then there is his costume designer Lilli, who is his confident, and he is having flashbacks to when he was a child and got reprimanded for messing with a prostitute.
The biggest difference between Nine and 8 1/2 is that the former takes the latter’s subtleties and urinates on them. No longer do we have to wonder what Guido is feeling about these women because his feelings are told through elaborate and flashy musical numbers. Then there is how cold it feels. It seems like Rob Marshall was too focused on getting the choreography right, and forgot that this story has to have heart. I guess that also roots from the fact that he is an inexperienced director, and that he has not gone through half of what Fellini had gone through when he made 8 1/2.
With that said, now let’s focus on the positive. First off, the cast. Every part here, no matter how unnecessary, was perfectly cast. If there was one person that is good enough to step into Marcello Mastroianni’s shoes, it is Daniel Day-Lewis. Sure, he doesn’t have a great voice, but it is adequate for the lyrics, and he knocks out the non-singing parts. Marion Cotillard gives the best performance in the movie as the alienated wife. Nicole Kidman and Penelope Cruz do wonders with their alloted screen time (although Cruz did not deserve to be nominated for an Oscar). And Denched seemed to have a lot of fun. Fergie, Kate Hudson, and Sophia Loren were just standing there, although I must say that Fergie’s rendition of “Be Italian” gave me chills. Then there is the production. The cinematography, the sets, the costumes, etc, are all great. If there is one thing that Rob Marshall is good at is at making things look pretty.
Nine is an entertaining movie, and that’s about it. Maybe it would have been more acclaimed if they had changed the character names and had dropped the whole “inspired by 8 1/2” angle. Totally unnecessary, but fun.