Nine


Nine

As you can see, film directors really do have a God complex.

(Weinstein) Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, Stacey “Fergie” Ferguson, Ricky Tognazzi, Giuseppe Cederna, Elio Germano, Andrea di Stefano. Directed by Rob Marshall

The creative process is a tricky one. The moment you put pen to paper, image to film, something dies a little bit. It is not a pleasant process; it is violent sometimes, turning savagely on the artist.

Guido Contini (Day-Lewis) is one of the most acclaimed film directors in the world, certainly in the Italy of the mid-1960s. Referred to affectionately as “Maestro,” he has been on a bit of a cold streak of late, his last two movies having been as he put it “flops.” His latest, Italia, starring his regular leading lady Claudia Schaeffer (Kidman), is meant to put him back in the drivers’ seat. At least, his producer (Tognazzi) hopes so.

Guido, on the other hand, is falling apart both personally and professionally. He is suffering from an excruciating case of writer’s block and has been unable to write down a single word or idea about the movie with filming set to begin in only ten days. He is under enormous pressure from his producers, the studio and the press; after another banal press conference at his home base of Cinecitta Studios in Rome, he flees to a spa on the Italian coast. 

There his personal shortcomings begin to catch up to him. Guido is a charming womanizer; he married Luisa (Cotillard), his first leading lady and is having an affair with Carla (Cruz), who is also married. He confesses his anxieties to his friend and therapist of a sort Lilli (Dench) the costume designer. All of them show up at the spa, throwing his marriage into disarray – where it was heading anyway. He is having flashbacks of his late mother (Loren) and Saraghina (Ferguson), a prostitute he had known in his youth. To make matters even more complicated, an American reporter (Hudson) with a passion for his style makes it clear she wouldn’t mind sharing his bed. What’s an artiste to do?

Director Marshall won an Oscar for Best Picture for Chicago and no doubt the producers were hoping that lightning would strike twice. After all, this was a Tony-winning musical based on the great Italian director Federico Fellini’s masterpiece 8 1/2. Unfortunately, this musical simply doesn’t measure up to Chicago. Whereas Chicago didn’t take itself terribly seriously in many ways, Nine certainly does, full of sequences that take place in Guido’s tortured mind that come off as self-indulgent. Perhaps that is as well, since Guido clearly is guilty of that particular sin.

My issue is that if you’re going to have a musical, the music should be memorable, no? Unfortunately, there are no songs here that are going to make you rush out and buy the soundtrack. The closest number that comes to it is ”Be Italian” as sung by Fergie – who knew that she would be one of the best features of this movie – and even that number is sabotaged by an egregious misuse of sand. Clearly the movie would have benefitted from an Andrew Lloyd Weber who, for all his detractions, definitely knows how to write a song that will stick with you.

When the musical numbers are the weakest part of your musical, you know you’re in trouble. The movie is saved by the depiction of Fellini’s Rome, taking you back to an era of Vespas, skinny ties, sophisticated women in cocktail dresses and cool Ray-Bans on the faces of suave men. Also, any opportunity to see Sophia Loren is worth taking. Ms. Loren is in her seventies now, but she still grabs your attention every time she’s onscreen. Modern movie goddesses like Kidman and Cruz simply can’t compete.

Because the musical numbers take place in the sexually-obsessive Guido’s mind, most of the women are clad in lingerie during them. Normally I don’t object to that kind of thing but you eventually come to a point of overload and quite frankly while I admire Judi Dench as the great actress she is and believe she is a beautiful woman, seeing her in a bustier trailing a feather boa the length of a Winnebago behind her was just disconcerting.

Even so, I enjoyed myself somewhat despite the many failings of the movie, which I guess is damning it with faint praise. If the music had been better, perhaps Marshall might have had something here but quite frankly, he was sunk before he even rolled cameras. I think Guido might have understood that completely.

REASONS TO GO: Recreates Fellini’s Rome very nicely. Sophia Loren is the epitome of Italian glamour and worth seeing alone. Day-Lewis does a credible job in a role he probably shouldn’t have taken.

REASONS TO STAY: The musical numbers are not terribly memorable, despite all the glitz and lingerie. Too over-the-top in places.  

FAMILY VALUES: Lots of lingerie, incessant smoking and a lot of sexuality make this not a kid-friendly musical.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The late Raul Julia originated the role of Guido Contini on Broadway.

HOME OR THEATER: In order to more closely replicate the Broadway experience I recommend you see it on the big screen.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Final Destination 3

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New Releases for the Week of December 25, 2009


New Releases for the Week of December 25, 2009

Sherlock Holmes engages in a little breaing and entering.

SHERLOCK HOLMES

(20th Century Fox) Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly, James Fox, Geraldine James, Robert Maillet. Directed by Guy Ritchie

This is the latest re-imagining of the Arthur Conan Doyle character. Here, director Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) gives Holmes a more action-adventure bent as the legendary detective and his faithful companion Dr. Watson take on an evil noble with the fate of the very British Empire at stake!

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material)

It’s Complicated

(Universal) Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski. A woman who’s husband left her for a younger woman (which he later married) finds herself in the odd position of having an affair with her ex-husband. That’s right, now she’s the other woman…only she was there first. It’s all so…so…complicated. Say, wait a minute…(please note that the studio has appealed the MPAA’s “R” rating and is looking to get a more reasonable PG-13).

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: R (for some drug content and sexuality. PENDING APPEAL)

Nine

(Weinstein) Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz. Director Rob Marshall, an Oscar winner for Chicago, revisits the Broadway musical with this big screen version of a 1982 Tony winner based on Federico Fellini’s notorious film 8 ½. The story revolves around a famous film director reaching a personal crisis of epic proportions while balancing the women in his life.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and smoking)

The Young Victoria

(Apparition) Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Miranda Richardson, Paul Bettany. A chronicle of the turbulent early years of the legendary English queen’s reign, and of her romance with Prince Albert of Prussia. This features an all-star cast of respected British thespians, too many to list in this preview.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG (for some mild sensuality, a scene of violence, and brief incidental language and smoking)