Friday, January 1, 2010

Review: "Nine"

You may wonder why I am posting so late (or early, depending on point of view). To make a long story short, Uncle Prospero was the designated driver tonight. Uncle P also slipped in the snow Thursday morning and twisted his back, so he's in pain. I got home and decided I needed a drink and here I am...

Anyway, it may be Friday to you, but I haven't been to bed yet, so it's still Thursday to me. And this afternoon I got together with a certain adorable Go-Go Elf named Matty and we saw Rob Marshall's Nine.

Movie musicals are tough. They have to be extraordinary to succeed with today's audiences. Moulin Rouge, Hairspray and Chicago are all rather extraordinary in one way or another. I am sad to report that Nine is rather less than so.

Based on the Broadway musical, itself based on Fellini's 8 1/2, Nine tells the story of director Guido Contini (Daniel Day Lewis). Suffering a mid-life crisis which is preventing him from coming up with a script for the film he is supposed to start shooting in 10 days, Guido takes off to a spa and reflects on the women in his life. Wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard); mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz); costumer and friend Lilli (Judi Dench); leading lady Claudia (Nicole Kidman); childhood prostitute Saraghina (Fergie); 'Vogue' reporter Stephanie (Kate Hudson) and Mamma (Sophia Loren). Sadly, Marshall wastes the talents of nearly every single one of them.

Oddly, for a show about film making, Nine doesn't really work when taken outside of a theatre. Of course, it doesn't help that they removed almost half the numbers from the show (including the title song) and multiplied the angst to the point of boredom. Lewis does an OK job, though I would have rather seen Antonio Banderas reprise his role from the 2003 B'way revival. Cruz (in a multi-colored fright wig and some ridiculous costumes), comes off even creepier than usual (I wasn't sure that was possible), especially in the scene where Guido does her make-up for a sex game where they are supposed to pretend to be strangers. Loren, another victim of too much cosmetic surgery, fares only slightly better. I thought they would have cut her number over others, but then remembered her turn as Aldonza in Man of LaMancha. Hudson, looking more like her mother than ever, has the most annoying number, 'Cinema Italiano,' written especially for the movie in order to garner a Best Song nom, and thankfully Fergie isn't asked to act, only sing in the film's best number 'Be Italian.' Dench croaks her way through 'Follies Bergere' and Kidman's version of 'Unusual Way' was surprisingly flat more than once. Fairing better (musically, anyway) is Cruz in her phone-sex number 'A Call from the Vatican.' The movie's best performance belongs to Cotillard, who's version of 'My Husband Makes Movies' is almost heart-breaking. Her acting is also the best in the movie.

Among Nine's worst problems is its plodding script, surprisingly written in part by the late Anthony Minghella (The English Patient). And Marshall's heavy-handed direction doesn't help. As in Chicago, Marshall stages the musical numbers as fantasy sequences, mostly taking place in Guido's head. Unlike Chicago, this approach does nothing to advance the plot, but merely serves as a comment on it. And the dance numbers are so heavily edited that one can hardly appreciate the actual dancing. Switching back and forth between color and black & white, Marshall's attempts at showing us what Guido is thinking only serve to confuse and often bore the audience. If I wore a watch (I tend to kill them - but that's a story for another time), I would have checked my wrist several times in an attempt to figure how much more I had to endure of this mess. As with Marshall's adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha, the film was more about flash and glamor, rather than substance and story-telling. I wish I knew who actually said this, but it passed on to me anecdotally, but I have to agree with the critic who said that 'not since The Towering Inferno have so many big names taken part in such a disaster.' (If you know who said it, please tell me so I can credit him or her).

** 1/2 (Two and a Half out of Four Stars), and only because of Marion Cotillard's truly terrific performance. I can't wait to see what the exceptionally talented French actress has to show us next.

And just a reminder, while there may (or may not) be another post for January 1st, there wil lbe no Caliban's Revenge post on Saturday. Read me instead at The Zombie Zone. And when C's R returns on Sunday, it will have a whole new look for the New Year!

Here's wishing everyone the Happiest of New Years! My wish for all of you is that you find your hearts' desires in 2010!

More, anon.


William said...

Love your comment about Kate Hudson's being the most annoying's bad when you can tell that just from the commercial! hehe...I was over visiting my Mom when Oprah had the cast on and they showed some of Kate's number...Mom called out from the kitchen, "What is that caterwauling?" I replied, "It's the sound of Kate Hudson's career crashing and burning, Mom!" Mom was like, "Well, she'll never be as good as her mother". Savvy Hungarians! Oh yeah...and btw, where can I rassle me up a Go Go Elf Boy 'o my own, Prospero???

Prospero said...

William - direct a production of "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told" and you'll find one...

Mrs. Pine said...

we're going in an hour to see it! i'll try to report back! jessi and cat and i do up the jersey reunion with this, so hoping it doesn't uber disappoint- happy new year, mister- much love! xo

Stephen said...

Shall I burn you a copy of the Soundtrack...? I just can't stop playing it at Post Apocalyptic Bohemia!