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*** Official NINE Review Thread


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#1 of 8 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted December 25 2009 - 01:31 PM

I don't really know what Rob Marshall and company were thinking when they went through with this film because it's rather unsatisfying fare, even with the homage to Fellini's "8 1/2" as inspiration for a look at Italian cinema in the late 1950s.  Given a cast with 6 actors boasting Academy Awards on their resume, the script doesn't ask enough from them in this exploration of famous Italian film director Guido Contini's (Daniel Day-Lewis) downward spiral of hitting director's block on his comeback film project after suffering through some recent flops in his own creative journey.   

Guido lived a complicated life, littered with a wife, mistresses, and muses, all the while holding on to the maturity level of an 8-year old since his creative output afforded him enough leeway to misbehave and live concurrent, haphazard, romantic lives irrespective of the cost to personal dignity and self-esteem of the women left in his romantic wake.

The film features quite a few "numbers" by the characters to better fill out what they are feeling at the moment, saying in song what they could not in person, internalizing pain and regret, or expressing other emotional mile-markers in relationships with Guido.  Heck, there might have been exactly 9 numbers for all I know (it's close to that number).

Of all the numbers, I enjoyed Marion Cotillard's 2 numbers the most.  She played Luisa, the wife of Guido, who finally comes to grips with who and what Guido is, and personally, it's an all-too-familiar touchstone within such a relationship borne from director taking an acting ingenue as his wife, while also unconsciously harvesting the personal perks from being an in-demand film director to the other ingenues-in-wait.

Penelope Cruz plays Carla, the current mistress who complicates Guido's life, and provides a tantalizing number to explain Guido's fascination with Carla.  Even Judi Dench gets in the song-n-dance act, playing a long-time costumer/confidente of Guido's.  Kate Hudson gets a fun little number to express the exciting aspects of Italian cinema through the eyes of an American reporter for Vogue, Fergie shows up as the siren to young Guido's burgeoning appreciation of womanhood, and Nicole Kidman provides a muse-like inspiration in spite of needing more real world TLC and respect. Sophia Loren plays Guido's mother, and Guido is not averse to seeking emotional shelter within his mother's embrace throughout his own recollections of his youth.

The numbers are well-executed for the most part, but it's not one of those films where the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  As the film wore on, I felt less and less sympathy or interest in Guido, and the conclusion didn't really mean much to me, probably because I checked out of the film 2/3 into it.

I give it 2.5 stars, or a grade of C+.

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#2 of 8 ONLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted December 25 2009 - 08:36 PM

This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "Nine". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an
Official Discussion Thread.




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#3 of 8 OFFLINE   JiM T

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Posted December 27 2009 - 10:59 AM

Here's my review of "Nine", originally posted at twitchfilm.net...

For what wants to be a simple, breezy musical, the act of even explaining the origins of “Nine” can be exhausting.  But, I’ll give it a shot…  Based on Federico Fellini’s autobiographical cinema classic “8 ½”, “Nine” made its debut as a Broadway musical in 1982, and much acclaim followed.  The film and the musical both center on the character of Guido, a celebrated Italian filmmaker who is contractually obligated to deliver what will be his ninth feature, and is creatively struggling to realize what it will be.  This is the situation in which Fellini found himself in during the gestation of what would be his beguiling meta-masterpiece, “8 ½”.   If you’re wondering how any of this lends itself to becoming a simple, breezy musical, take a bow.

 

Having recently re-watched “8 ½” as part of a self-imposed Fellini crash-course (which honestly just happens to coincide with the release of “Nine”), I can attest to its haunting mysteriousness and uncompromising male bravado.  Fellini puts everything out there, warts and all, and never apologizes.  It is one of the most personal jigsaw puzzle films ever made, and also one of the best films about the art of filmmaking.  Whoever decided that this material would make a good splashy musical ought to have their head examined.  Granted, I’ve never seen a live performance of “Nine”, but I can safely say that the film version is not only one of the worst films of the year; it is one of the worst musicals ever made.

 

Before I proceed with the much-deserved blasting of “Nine”, I should point out that the star studded cast is not to blame for this misfire.  The incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Guido, and although he acquits himself well enough with what little singing he does, he is given very little else to really sink his teeth into, outside of his character’s depressed meandering.  Penelope Cruz, as Guido’s current mistress, has a moment in the sun with her genuinely scorching, if inconsequential number.  The other famous Tom Cruise ex of the cast, Nicole Kidman, comes and goes through the story effectively enough, but poor Marion Cotillard – playing the part of Guido’s put-upon wife - the chameleon actress is saddled with some of the worst lyrics in a show full of embarrassing lyrics (her song, “My Husband Makes Movies” is unintentionally hilarious in the worst way).  The only true eye-opener here is the singer Fergie as Saraghina, who benefits from having the only good and memorable song in “Nine”, “Be Italian”. 

 

This being transparent Weinstein Oscar-bait, Dame Judi Dench is present.  This time, she’s in the role of Guido’s resident costumer/analyst – a role with no bearing in the original Fellini material, yet necessitated here by the nature of bringing this story from the art house to the musical stage.  Despite the narrative shortcuts the role provides, Dench’s presence still feels like deadweight in a film that’s already bogged down.   But the true grande dame of “Nine” is clearly intended to be Sophia Loren, who has a few scenes as Guido’s mother in flashbacks.   Judging by the nature of Loren’s early reveal in the film – before we even know she’s his mother, we’re clearly supposed to swooning, “Ah, Sophia!” – the filmmaker’s consider her very presence to be a casting coupe, and never regain their composure.

 

It is all indicative of one of the film’s greater problems, the first of which is that “Nine” is in actuality not “8 ½: The Musical!”, but merely a broader love-letter to the general cigarettes & suits cool vibe of Italy in the early 1960s, as communicated through the immensely popular films of Fellini, Antonioni, and others.  It dresses up as Fellini’s “8 ½”, shedding away all of the depth and resonance of that film in favor of a fashion show of set dressing, automobiles, and of course wardrobe.  Gone are Fellini’s rocket ship, surreal dream sequences, and bullwhip harem.  In their place, we have a series of on-the-nose bombastic dance numbers, all rooted in Fellini’s home studio of Cinecitta.  This whole Italian movie tribute aspect gives way to the most embarrassing number of them all:  Kate Hudson as an American fashionista singing the token new song for the film (gotta have that Oscar contender in the mix!), “Cinema Italiano”.  She belts out “I love to see/from Guido’s P.O.V./There’s no one else with his unique director’s vision!” while strutting an artificial fashion runway, flanked by male backup dancers adorned in black suits and sunglasses and cavorting on stripper poles.  No, no, no, no, no - This number, in all its shortsighted adoration, single-handedly displays the big problem with “Nine” – it claims to be in love with the postcard image Italy of the 1960s, but has completely missed the great depth and artistry that the post-neorealist films of Italy offer.

 

The glaring failure of “Nine” rests squarely on the shoulders of director Rob Marshall – all the most disappointing considering that he delivered the noteworthy “Chicago” in 2003.  I can’t help but wonder how much of the failure of “Nine” lies in the fact that it is a gay man’s take on some of the most heterosexual male source material in movie history.  Perhaps his response to the gleeful misogyny of the bullwhip-wielding harem sequence of “8 ½” is to replace it with more scenes where Guido, put upon by women, can only find refuge in them as well.  Less rocket ships and harems, more moping mother & wife scenes.  Or, maybe all those changes were already in place in on Broadway.  I don’t know, I won’t further pretend any further to be Judi Dench to Marshall’s Guido.  All I know is that there is a fatal disconnect from the source material, making “Nine” a very confused and highly uneven work. 

 

 It is virtually impossible to separate “Nine” from “8 ½”.  “Nine” is a derivative work that cannot stand on its own two feet, an essential quality for any adaptation to the screen.  This is because “Nine” is not only an adaptation, but also wants to be a tribute.  But fans of the Fellini film will reject this as a trite exercise of style over substance at best, an insulting misfire at worst.  On the flip side, the content of “Nine” will be completely lost on those not familiar with “8 ½” and other Italian films of the era.  Those people simply won’t care about “Cinema Italiano”, Guido’s P.O.V. and “neorealism” (by the way, wrong era of Italian film, songwriters!).  The end result is an unenjoyable film that is for nobody.  Sorry Weinsteins, explain it any way you want, this movie is not worthy of any Oscars.

 

- Jim Tudor




#4 of 8 OFFLINE   Claire Panke

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Posted December 27 2009 - 02:32 PM

"Nine" on Broadway succeeded because of its incomparable cast and the sublime staging of Tommy Tune. It was truly more than the sum of its parts, theater magic. Had it not been for Tune's genius and the fabulous cast, I'm sure it would have been a forgotten failure.

Shorn of these elements and transferred to the big screen (where everything must be explicit), Nine cannot but reveal the thinness of the original book and the mediocrity of most of the songs. The few changes made for this screen version only weaken it,

Jim T, this film version was ill conceived and executed no matter what the orientation of the creator. Tommy Tune was/is quite gay (er, rather let us say "metro-sexual", since he's had his affairs with women) but he throroughly understood the dimensions of 8 1/2 and had the artistry to transform Nine into a compelling theatrical experience that complemented as well as resonated with the source material. Even so, Nine on its own merits was never one of the great musicals, and a less filmable one can hardly be imagined.

In Marshall's case, he seems to understand hard sell and razzmatazz but little else. He has no idea what Nine is about, much less 8 1/2. he has a talent for staging, but his hard edged cyncism and flash is much better suited to Fosse-land and Chicago.

#5 of 8 OFFLINE   Bryan Tuck

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Posted December 28 2009 - 10:00 AM

Wow, what a mess.  The best thing I can say about this movie is that it made me want to watch 8 1/2 again, and I'm not even a huge fan of 8 1/2.  The biggest problem, of course, is that 8 1/2 was such an intensely personal film for Fellini that a remake from anyone else really makes no sense at all.  What's next, Baz Luhrmann's The 500 Blows?

Also, the device of making all the musical numbers part of the protagonist's imagination worked in Chicago because that was Roxie's character; she saw the world as a series of song-and-dance numbers.  In Nine, there's no reason for it except, "Hey, it worked in Chicago!"

I have to admit that "Cinema Italiano" was kind of catchy, but as Jim pointed out above, somewhat ignorant.  If Contini is supposed to be Fellini, then neorealism is about as far as you can get from his particular style of filmmaking.

And talk about wasting a cast!  You know something's amiss when you have Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, and Sophia Loren in your movie, and your best scene features Kate Hudson.

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#6 of 8 OFFLINE   Tarkin The Ewok

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Posted December 29 2009 - 02:46 AM

I've never seen 8 1/2 or any of Fellini's films yet, so I was able to watch this movie with a relatively clean slate. I enjoyed Nine as a musical and a love letter to cinema. Guido's struggles and crazy life made for compelling viewing. Of course, I enjoyed all the lovely ladies in Nine.

Comparisons to Chicago are inevitable, and Nine does not quite reach that high mark. However, it delivers the best movie musical since then that I can recall, and I hope to see more of this style of film in the future. My rating for Nine is 4/5 stars.

#7 of 8 OFFLINE   Mediajunkie3

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Posted January 06 2010 - 08:22 AM

I saw this film on a whim. It was the only movie playing when a friend and I wandered to the theater after dinner. I was excited because I knew it had an all-star cast, although I knew little of the actual plot. But the cast indeed seemed to be what carried the movie. My favorite performance was by Cotillard, whose musical numbers were amazing. Even Cruz, as Guido’s vampy mistress, somehow made her character likeable. And even if you didn’t end up liking her, you did feel a bit of pity for her. Overall, the film may feel a bit disjointed and slightly confusing at times, but nevertheless entertaining. I’ve never seen Fellini’s “8 ½” but will definitely watch it now!
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#8 of 8 OFFLINE   James_Kiang

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Posted January 06 2010 - 10:41 AM

As weird as might sound, I found Nine to be a movie I respected on a number of levels but just did not really like.  More specifically, I thought it was well-directed and choreographed, though I did not care for the music all that much (as opposed to something like Moulin Rouge).  I thought Day-Lewis and Cotillard gave particulary good performances but did not care for Hudson, Cruz, or Fergie.