by Ken B.
Nine is a big, lavish, colorful production. I didn’t really like it. It is, as many of you know, based off a wildly acclaimed 1982 Broadway musical, which in turn is based off Federico Fellini’s great 8½ (1963). One of the defining factors of Fellini’s film about the mind of a faded director was its surreal imagery and feel. Nine is the antithesis of this, whether intentional or not. It is alive, possibly grotesquely alive, with hints of sensuality, memory, and depression nearly buried by an overstuffed execution at the movie’s very worst moments.
Daniel Day-Lewis stars, and is of course wonderful, as Guido Contini, an Italian filmmaker nearing the age of fifty in 1962 Italy. (Much like Guido Anselimi in 8½, he is ill, aggravated by his chaotic career and lifestyle.) He has a wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard), and a mistress, Carla (Penélope Cruz). Guido is faced with directing a project he has no motivation to create. His most recent pictures have been flops, and many who see him imply that he made his greatest films long ago. At a press conference, only two bits of information concerning the film are made available (possibly because these are the only things that Guido knows): It will be called Italia, which a reporter points out is a pretty bold title, and it will star who is considered Contini’s muse, actress Claudia Jenssen (Nicole Kidman).
This 118 minute movie revolves around Guido coping with his struggle, with memories from his childhood, and balancing this with the facets of the dissolving equilibrium of his personal and professional lives, all interspersed with lush musical numbers. They all vary in memorability, quality, and ease of placement (there are only two I can actively remember, even less than 24 hours after viewing it), but share the same type of blaring style.
The point of Nine is not to have quiet, intimate sequences of character development, but it’s worth wondering how much more enjoyable the film would have been if director Rob Marshall and screenwriters Michael Tolkin and Anthony Minghella had attempted to work a little more of it in. Such a suggestion works its way through in early scenes, like between Guido and a costume designer (Judi Dench).
For every positive quality about Nine, there is a corresponding negative. You could see it for the grand production design and the great acting, or be scared off due to the bloated nature and forgetability. I don’t know what exactly you want in a movie, and it is easy to see people quickly falling passionately for what Nine resonates. However, it is my experience that the poorer aspects of the film end up weighing the entire production just under the line of calling it a good movie.