NINE **






It all began with Federico Fellini’s luxurious black and white cinematic classic 8 1/2.

It’s a fantastic imaginative allegorical tale of a film director in crisis. He is creatively blocked – a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown – and completely at the mercy of the women in his life.

All things considered, it’s especially fitting that this monumental motion picture was released in 1963. It was a tumultuous decade that took no prisoners and left no boundaries unsettled.

No one at that time had ever seen anything remotely like 8 1/2. It was groundbreaking in its scope and vision.

The musical NINE was based on 8 1/2. It was originally conceived as a stirring provocative Broadway delight in the early 80s that had a grand and glorious revival approximately ten years later.

Finally, we now have the motion picture version of NINE.

In terms of precedents, it had a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case.

GUIDO CONTINI (DANIEL DAY LEWIS) is a perpetual dreamer. In 1965, he is the most influential and revered Italian filmmaker of his generation.

But he is far from happy or fulfilled.

His fame has left him with a tremendous amount of pressure that never seems to dissipate. Everyone expects his latest film to be an enormous milestone and top everything else that he did before. His last two movies didn’t do so well.

He married a well known actor that appeared in several of his motion pictures, the lovely and charming LUISA (MARION COTILLARD). They are still emotionally connected. But their bond is disintegrating rapidly.

Guido is not a bad person. But he is extraordinarily flawed. His narcissism and self centredness make him a terrible husband. He has females throwing themselves at him day and night. His need for romance and drama (when he isn’t working or even when he is) ensure that fidelity is going to be a difficult road.

Guido is constantly lost in the fanciful flames of uncontrollable desire – women he admires, women he wants to seduce, women that he’s slept with, women that he’s loved, women that he lusts after endlessly. He is dazzled, haunted and brought to his knees by the fabulous women that populate his fantasies.

His mistress CARLA (PENELOPE CRUZ) has a husband and problems of her own. Aside from the physical, there doesn’t appear to be anything holding their affair together.

There is also the extravagant blonde international film star CLAUDIA JENSSEN (NICOLE KIDMAN), who has worked with Guido on numerous occasions. She is effectively his muse and artistic inspiration.

Claudia and Guido adore each other but have never crossed that line. They struggle to be professional because they know that if a romance didn’t work out that they would never be able to be involved in a creative project again.

Claudia is more serious about this potential relationship. She is weary of being worshipped for her perfect unattainable image.

Claudia is insistent on finding out if Guido actually has a part for her in his new film. She also needs to know (once and for all) if he could ever really love her for the person that she is.

She is very skeptical – and for good reason.

STEFANIA (KATE HUDSON) is a quirky adorable journalist from Vogue who’s seen all of Guido’s movies. She’s on the make and determined to sleep with him no matter what obstacles are put in her path.

LILLI (JUDI DENCH) knows Guido for exactly who he is…and she loves him anyway. She’s the costume designer on all of his motion pictures. Lilli is his prized confidante who has taken the place of his mother (SOPHIA LOREN) since she’s been gone. Lilli thinks Guido should clean up his act. It’s his only real shot at a satisfying meaningful existence.

In addition to all of this, Guido often thinks about SARAGHINA (FERGIE), a fiery lady of the evening who practiced her trade in the village where he grew up. When he was a small boy, she gave him the best advice about women he ever heard.

It’s a wicked shame that he never listened to her…

The screenplay for NINE was written by MICHAEL TOLKIN and the late great ANTHONY MINGHELLA. It was directed by the brilliant ROB MARSHALL, who had a smashing triumph with the fabulous CHICAGO.

NINE is a tragic misfire. With these gifted individuals involved on every conceivable level, how did this manage to take place?

NINE has a much more complicated premise than CHICAGO. Its subject matter has to be handled with extreme delicacy. Unless musicals are straight forward, film adaptations can be exceptionally tricky.

CHICAGO was based on a narrative structure that was actually successful. All of the musical numbers took place in Roxie’s mind. Her dreams unfolded right in front of your eyes. Plus the action shifted all over that raucous untamed metropolis. You weren’t confined to one set.

The dancing and singing here are also largely part of Guido’s thoughts and inner expressions. But those scenes simply never find their footing. Though the action is opened up considerably from the play, we keep returning to a black bare soundstage where Guido simultaneously attempts to grasp the important concepts of his life and to understand what he’s trying to film.

It’s bleak, lifeless and it doesn’t work.

Plus the songs (with the exception of A CALL FROM THE VATICAN and BE ITALIAN) are simply not memorable. You leave the cinema humming CHICAGO’S brazenly catchy soundtrack.

Not this time…

There is a shot in the trailer that repeats here. It’s of Guido in his pale blue Alfa Romeo, zooming along a deserted highway with an azure ocean gleaming seductively on the left side of the frame. It leaves you so awestruck you’re almost dizzy.

There should have been much more of that.

There is a scene where Claudia and Guido run to his car and are chased through the dark streets of Rome by the paparazzi. It’s incredibly reminiscent of the Hollywood movies made about Europe – either during that particular time period or set at that juncture.

It’s enough to make you swoon. But it encompasses a few brief moments and then it’s over.

Cinematographer DION BEEBE and costumer COLLEEN ATWOOD (both CHICAGO personnel) pull out all the stops…and it genuinely shows.

DANIEL DAY LEWIS tries with every fibre of his being. He smolders with intensity and is immersed in hard core Catholic grief and guilt. He suffers. He burns. He broods.

But he can’t do it alone.

MARION COTILLARD does a refined, accomplished turn as the wronged LUISA. But the new song TAKE IT ALL puts her squarely in the middle of a grossly distasteful situation.

Yes, she’s angry and openly defiant. But she’s effectively being manhandled and sexually humilated so that she can throw it up in her husband’s face. It would seem the price is too high.

This gorgeous immensely talented Oscar winner deserves better – and so do we.

NICOLE KIDMAN is solid as the mysterious A list presence who wants something in her life that she doesn’t have.

JUDI DENCH brings a particular focus and sincere warmth to her role as the ultimate career professional/trusted friend.

KATE HUDSON is fine for the few minutes she’s on. But she appears to be channeling a more aggressive adrenalized version of a character her mother played once upon a time.

The legendary SOPHIA LOREN is like a breath of fresh air. It’s wonderful to see her in a movie again.

Everyone’s musical ability is admirable to good with one glaring exception.

JUDI DENCH in particular takes it to the wall with enviable relish in her showstopping number FOLIES BERGERE.

The only problem is PENELOPE CRUZ as CARLA. Though she’s an immensely talented performer and can effectively portray sensuality on screen (she was very good in VOLVER and VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA), her vocal abilities are rather limited. She also has a strong Spanish accent that makes the lyrics difficult to comprehend.

CARLA has the fantastic A CALL FROM THE VATICAN as part of her repertoire. The two stunningly charismatic women who portrayed this character on Broadway (the sensational ANITA MORRIS and the awesome JANE KRAKOWSKI) had men eating out of their hands six nights a week.

Those two goddesses knew their way around. They were decidedly not for the faint of heart. Plus you really need to be able to belt out that song and make people stand up and take notice.

ANITA and JANE were amazing. Up against them, Ms. Cruz simply can not compete.

On the other hand, FERGIE has taken endless amounts of heat for being cast in this project. She was one of the few truly awesome elements.

In her limited time as SARAGHINA with her own interpretation of BE ITALIAN, FERGIE makes the movie come alive. She is a riveting and magnificent presence that holds your attention masterfully. Her voice soars. She is electrifying. If the entire film had the magic of her one scene, it would have been spectacular.

FERGIE is going to have a career in film as big and bold as she wants it. Her talent is unparalleled.

But NINE as a whole (as opposed to the sum of its portions) is a glittering disappointment. The thing that it’s most successful at is making you long for the monumental spectacle of 8 1/2.

NINE is a tease that never satisfies. The potential was unlimited. But now it’s time to put it to bed.

Basta.

11 Responses to “NINE **”

  1. does this film’s failure to you hit harder since you were amped about it for months???

    i haven’t seen nine. was thinking i should give it a try. but then i saw the wave of people that seemed more inclined/interested in this film just go…very no.

    so i sat home last sunday… 😉

    uh maybe i’ll see it. so this film is dead/get’s the flop status if it doesn’t run the table at the globes ???

    yes i borrowed that idea. thank you… 😉

    got to disagree with on the p. cruz can effectively portray sensuality effectively on screen and vcb thing.

    uh she wasn’t sexy in vcb. people think so ???

    you know i’m not as much ‘oh no cruz’ as you and i’m not really a fan either. but she didn’t wow me in a hormonally or acting wise in vcb. i was like she gets a nom for this??? this is what has people going crazy…faking crazy???

    ok i couldn’t miss the chance for another lame joke.

    i think cruz is a little more noticeable (to me) then some people you have championed in the noticeable area. yes the novice is speaking.

    not super super amazing but i think that honour only goes to female
    musicians… 🙂

    but anyway noticeable except for the raves for her character in vcb.

    didn’t get it.

    The screenplay for NINE was written by MICHAEL TOLKIN and the late great ANTHONY MINGHELLA.

    saw a poster for nine and those two names were pretty visible on the poster. the script writers names usually aren’t aren’t in that position/have visiblity where the general public will pick up on the names behind the words. and one of the few times this does happen seems it’s gonna be for a movie many are finding *underwhelming*

    which supposedly isn’t a word… 😉

    but you really want to know why nine failed?

    it’s my fault. this year how many oscar bait films/genres have become non contenders??? maybe the vibes i’ve been sending out the last 2 – 3 years. are hitting an apex because pretty much all those films have fallen.

    and when they fall maybe that’s when i raise. 🙂

  2. http://www.awardsdaily.com/?p=17226#comments

    look who is winning. (so far.) why, it’s the underdog actor i was the first to mention/champion in that thread.

    wow…

    so unexpected…and so unlikely. but we’ll take it.

    hell this has *got* to be story of any of the award fan polls this year. can anything else like this happen???? this is a big deal !!!!!!

    catalina saavedra … i really liked her in the maid. people are liars and they almost never root for a *real* underdog.

    go saavedra. 🙂

  3. Oh, glimster. You are amazing, my darling.

    Such insight, passion and humour. You crack me the hell up and then get me thinking again. Extraordinarily rare, my little southern whippersnapper.

    First of all, I don’t buy that poll. Something must be up with that. Has to be. Who has heard about THE MAID outside of a handful of arthouse fans? Seems highly unlikely to me.

    Barring a massive out of left field miracle, there is no way that she is going to get nominated. Technically anything is possible. But I just don’t buy it necessarily.

    I haven’t seen THE MAID. It hasn’t even opened here. So it’s not like I have anything against Catalina or anything. That poll seems seriously unbelievable to me.

    Something just doesn’t ring true.

    It’s the same thing as this utter nonsense about WARREN BEATTY having rolled around with 13,000 women. I have read quotes over the years (from some famous people that actually knew him: SUZANNE PLESHETTE, DUSTIN HOFFMAN, CARLY SIMON etc.) that would definitely contradict that crap.

    It’s just PR. Biskind apparently admitted that he only talked to WARREN a few times and Mr. Beatty was very evasive about everything.

    Yeah, right.

    A few hundred? I’d definitely buy that. But when you get into ridiculous numbers and try to pass them off, that’s when I call BS.

    People have to remember this. Unless someone’s a total slut, demented or a sex addict (and there are definitely those types of scuzzy people out there), they’re not going to be able to sleep with EVERYONE. Not even everybody they desire. They may get a fair percentage.

    But no one’s luck holds out all the time. NO ONE’S.

    Yes, I’m sure you have a better shot with some people if you’re a gorgeous rich Hollywood personality. But not everyone is going to want somebody. No matter who they are.

    It’s just not that cut and dried. Plus if anyone has any standards (and admittedly not everyone is in possession of those) they will only sleep with people that they’re genuinely attracted to.

    I strongly suspect that there are droves of individuals that shuffle their numbers up or down depending on the weather or who they’re trying to impress.

    Personally, I think it’s pretty stupid. But whatever…

    *yawn*

    glim, NINE’S failure didn’t hit me hard. I had a bad feeling about this for about a month now. It was getting horrible reviews. It was apparent that something was up.

    Plus you can’t get yourself all bent out of shape over a film. There will be lots of other movies to see in the future. Many will exceed your expectations. They’ll surprise and delight you.

    No point in being upset about it. It happens. Move on. Life is short and all that jazz.

    It’s sad about NINE. A lot of great talent didn’t get utilized properly. But we’ll all live to fight another day.

    Yeah, I think that people did think PENELOPE CRUZ was sexy (wild, unfettered, free) in VCB. She definitely deserved to be nominated.

    Actually, I think underwhelming is a word, glimster. It should be. If not, let’s both start using it all the time. Maybe we can get a trend going?

    Are you sure you actually want to attend a screening of NINE now? I’d say save your money for better upcoming things, glim.

    I don’t think that you’ll feel that NINE is worth your while. It’s a real letdown.

    Procced with caution, honey bear.

    Oh, one other thing…

    If I never hear a woman scream “GUIDO!!!” again, I will be especially grateful.

    But outside of Italy (and a few other select locations), I guess that’s not likely to happen…

  4. the a.d. poll. yeah someone in the thread mentions it’s a boost because of some facebook thing. and you know what i say that’s fine/fair…and ok i like who is winning. 🙂

    was this poll supposed to closed of to only people that have posted on a.d.? nope there were no rules. open poll and as long as those that have posted have seen whom they are voting for.

    fair vote.

    people have an idea what’s happening and they can judge it as they like.

    hmm just more surprised that if such a thing were to happen it was for an actor that has bigger profile in this years nom things…

    underwhelming. more than just a word…..

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/underwhelming

    look at the first example they show for its use. wow… 😉

    If I never hear a woman scream “GUIDO!!!” again, I will be especially grateful.

    but come on ms. m. that’s supposed to be your new ring tone. 😉

    beatty and numbers. i’d believe if it mentioned he hit four figures.

  5. and somewhere lots of guys are glad nine is bombing with critics/box office because they now won’t get dragged to see it via girlfriend/wife.

    sorry. i wanted to get that joke in. never forget the classics. 😉

    nine…i may see this but there are a few things out now i want to see and all the whatever saying ‘no’ from people that seemed friendly towards it.makes someone that was curious about it /and hoped it was good maybe sit this round out.

    but yes i wanted husbands/boyfriends dragged to this thing. hell, how dare they be allowed to escape because of bad reviews. ; )

    oh there’s a youngish female employee at the angelika that hadn’t seen DDL in anything before and she told me that she thought the script kept DDL from being as good as he could have been.

    and she really hadn’t seen/read any reviews of nine before she saw it either.

    hmmm…

    guess something is in the air…

  6. glim, it’s Sasha’s site. So she can run those polls as she sees fit. It’s entirely up to her. She’s the boss over there.

    But if you’re happy (even though I haven’t seen THE MAID), I’m happy.

    Yeah, that is some definitive example. Were they plugged into that stupid Psychics Network? Or something…?

    Hell, I don’t even have a fancy ringtone. I always have my cell with me. But I don’t chat on it. I’d rather use my landline or go and visit someone in person if I want to talk to them.

    I only use my cell to call people and let them know where I am, when I’m arriving etc. I don’t have extended conversations on it. I have it around if I need it. That’s it.

    If I had a fancy ringtone, it would probably either be BEETHOVEN’S 7th Symphony or THE RUBETTES’ SUGAR BABY LOVE. Best intro to a pop song in the last 50 years.

    Or maybe the theme from THE PINK PANTHER. Mmmmmmm…

    Well, I guess I’m just an old fashioned girl. Maybe. Sort of.

    Possibly…

    I think people are slutty if they’ve slept with over 50 individuals. I’d be highly suspicious of any dude that had partaken of more than 50 women’s affections.

    50 is the cutoff. End of story.

    You can have a lot of fabulous sex. But it doesn’t have to be with everyone that crosses your path. I’m simply not impressed with boys that spread themselves around that much.

    But that’s just me…

  7. Hmmm…

    I would’ve thought NINE would have been of some serious interest to many heterosexual men and that they wouldn’t have to be dragged. There are a lot of attractive female actors in that movie.

    Yeah, I really don’t want to diss the script because I adored ANTHONY MINGHELLA. THE ENGLISH PATIENT was a terrible book and he made an astoundingly gorgeous poetic miracle of a motion picture out of it. He was an amazingly talented man.

    But the screenplay for NINE? I don’t know. So much went terribly wrong with this film. They had all of this fabulous talent on board. A lot of the same people worked on CHICAGO.

    CHICAGO is my all time favourite film musical. I think it’s a magnificent modern five star classic. So what exactly went wrong?

    I guess it’s a combination of a variety of different things. Large and small.

    I don’t think you’d like it, glim. I strongly suspect that this is one time that you can trust the public’s general reaction.

    I’m your friend. I want you to be happy. You’re likely better off seeing something else.

  8. Hmmm…

    I would’ve thought NINE would have been of some serious interest to many heterosexual men and that they wouldn’t have to be dragged. There are a lot of attractive female actors in that movie.

    did the whatever number of the guys that go on and on and so on about kate beckinsale being hot go see whiteout? nope.

    don’t feel that there’s really any whatever about the guys thinking whomever is hot and their supporting which female at the boxoffice/going to see their movie. hmmm???

    can you name some recent examples??? i think the the guys just drool over whomever. the guys aren’t go watch a film.because they think whomever is hot. they’ll just look at pics on the net or womething. they’re fandom doesn’t cross over to supporting the she’s hot females movies.

    because they usually have zero interest in the female aside from she’s hot. so why go she her even if she’s a lead in movie ??? and you know they’re not going. so maybe there’s some truth to those thoughts.

    a hot female is gonna have to be majorly into a for the guys film. the guys will talk about her but will she really add much boxoffice to the film by herself ???

    the guys really don’t care if the she’s hot females get good roles are good actors or even nice people.

    all they care about is if she’s hot (hot factor of the usually generic type too) and that doersn’t really inspire wanting to go to the cinema to show support because they’re not fans to start with.

  9. I think we may have had a slight misunderstanding, glimster.

    Honey, I do not disagree with you. You’re absolutely right.

    Those idiot frat boy types would not see a woman in any movie just because she’s hot. But then goofs like that would not likely have wives or girlfriends anyway. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be dragged to any film remotely like that in any case. They’d tell the women to go with their friends.

    Then they’d sit at home drinking beer, watching football or playing video games.

    You’re right. There’s no way in hell they’d pay to see women act in any film when they could look at their pictures on the net. Who cares if they can act???

    My point was simply this: if these dudes were the type to be dragged, then I surely couldn’t see why they wouldn’t look forward to NINE. There are some gorgeous women in that movie. That’s all.

    Anyway…

    Kate Beckinsale definitely has talent and something going on in the looks department. She was an excellent AVA GARDNER in THE AVIATOR. That was one part that I didn’t think she would be able to pull off effectively and she did a fabulous job.

    I think she needs a new agent though.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it relentlessly. Over and over again.

    To be an enduring A list actor, you should have three things at your disposal. You can get by with one. But if you possess all three you have a definite shot at a real career.

    Nothing’s guaranteed, of course. But it’s a little easier if you have the goods.

    Those three things are: talent, charisma and beauty.

    So who can I use as examples?

    MERYL STREEP, JULIE CHRISTIE, MICHELLE PFEIFFER, FAYE DUNAWAY and VIVIEN LEIGH fit the bill easily for starters.

    Then you have women like ELIZABETH TAYLOR, SOPHIA LOREN, ANN MARGRET, KIM BASINGER, LAUREN BACALL, CATHERINE ZETA JONES, AVA GARDNER and RITA HAYWORTH who had all of that and were hotter than the fires of hell on top of it.

    Those two groups of women are goddesses. Real authentic classic movie stars.

    They make so called film personalities out of nothing now. If the guys want to drool over them, it just shows how eminently retarded they are.

    End of story…

  10. Miranda –

    NINE is a tease that never satisfies.

    AMEN!!!!

    You nailed it completely.

    I haven’t been able to bring myself to post on this, so disappointed was I. It is glum and joyless and the musical numbers (while stirring in a couple of cases) make no sense. Where the hell are those numbers taking place? In Guido’s head?

    If so, why doesn’t he perk up at some point and decide to make a musical (as he does in the vastly different – and vastly superior – stage version)?

    I never though Daniel Day Lewis could give a dull performance, but he does here. I think I’m going to write more in a LAST WORD ON 2009 that I’m planning for some time in the next few days, but for now – your review is dead on.

    Nice work, my dear.

  11. Patty, your approval is fantastic.

    You’re so intelligent and such a fine writer. The fact that you enjoyed my review makes me very proud.

    Thank you so much, honey. It means a great deal.

    You are certainly in a position to understand all of the precious dynamics involved. You performed in an actual production of NINE. So you are intimately acquainted with the play.

    I had to wing it. I was familiar with A CALL FROM THE VATICAN and BE ITALIAN for a long time. I heard samples from the score and haunted YouTube for clips of the Broadway play (both the 80s version and the revival) being performed.

    I got up to speed pretty quickly. I needed to know what I was doing so that I could give the critique a fair shot.

    ANTHONY MINGHELLA was originally going to direct the film. But then he passed away *sigh* and the project was given over to ROB MARSHALL.

    I was really trepidatious when ROB MARSHALL was assigned to CHICAGO. I needed to take some really deep breaths at the time. He had an extensive theatrical background and had helmed some TV stuff. But he had never directed a motion picture before.

    My anxiety disappeared after the first five minutes of watching the film. It was a modern musical classic.

    So naturally I was thrilled when Mr. Marshall was asked to do this film. The Weinsteins were behind this again. They had a fabulous cast.

    What could possibly go wrong???

    Well…

    You certainly hit the nail on the head, girl. Glum and joyless sum it up accurately and succinctly.

    As you can see from the posts from glimmer and myself previously in this thread, we’re still trying to figure that out.

    NINE is not nearly as accessible as CHICAGO. It’s more avidly intellectual and artistic. The songs are not nearly as memorable.

    But come on. Surely, with everything that it had going for it, it could have worked out better than this.

    The production design, the costumes and the cinematography are all great. Almost everyone sings reasonably well and the acting is fine right across the board.

    JUDI is, as always, impishly adorable. KATE’S cute. DDL is masculine in a particularly magical way. PENELOPE’S distractingly sensual. Of course (needless to say) SOPHIA, NICOLE and MARION are all beautiful.

    But there’s nothing up there that’s remotely interesting or intriguing.

    You know, it did cross my mind that this could be an epic fail. But the one thing that I was absolutely sure of was that it would be (at the very least) scorchingly sexy. With DDL and all of those great women, how could it miss???

    But it’s not.

    It even goes down in flames on that level. DDL doesn’t really have effective chemistry with any woman in the film – with the possible exception of JUDI. Considering that she is only a good friend, that doesn’t really count.

    The closest we get to a full boil is FERGIE’S impassioned performance of BE ITALIAN. Now that was hot…and so was she. If the film had had the vitality and power of that one scene, it would have been an entirely different experience.

    Yeah, it does appear that the musical numbers (most of them, anyway…) originate in Guido’s mind. But every time I saw that bare black soundstage I just groaned.

    He’s a filmmaker. He’s inspired by the art of making movies. It’s his life, his dreams, his very soul.

    We get it. So what???

    I was extraordinarily disappointed. But that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

    Unfortunately, this is not a film that will be revisited some day and will be highly praised and rediscovered. Most productions of the play that are mounted from this juncture will certainly be more innovative and exciting than this movie was.

    I’ll certainly look forward to your recap of last year. You’re always insightful and inspired.

    Thanks for being here, Patty. You’re thoroughly awesome.

    Your comment made my day…

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