Review of Nine


Movie Review: "Nine"

-- Rating: PG-13 (smoking, sexual content)
Length: 118 minutes
Release Date: Dec. 20, 2009
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Genre: Musical/Romance/Drama

Director Rob Marshall created quite a stir when his adaptation of the musical "Chicago" won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The film was a delight for lovers of musicals and helped bring the long-running Broadway classic to a new audience. Marshall set the bar so high for himself that fans have wondered if he would ever dare to make another musical. "Nine" is his long-awaited follow-up.

The film is an adaptation of the 1982 Broadway hit of the same name, which was itself an adaptation of sorts. The Broadway version paid homage to Italian master Federico Fellini's "81/2." Marshall keeps the spirit of the original Broadway play and Fellini's penchant for visuals intact while also paying homage to musicals in general. There are three original songs that were not in the theatrical version, which keeps the film fresh for those who have already seen "Nine" onstage.

The film centers on Italian director Guido (Daniel Day-Lewis), a man whose previous eight films caused quite a stir at the cinema. He is about to produce his ninth film, the concept for which is floating in his head, but he can't seem to bring the concept to fruition in the form of a script. At a press conference, he dodges questions about the content of the upcoming film by saying that speaking about it before filming would spoil the mystery. The reporters buy it, and Guido buys himself some time. However, time is running out, and the lack of a solid film script is actually the least of his worries.

His other worries include his wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard), who is quite unhappy about the state of her marriage. Part of the problem could be Guido's mistress, Carla (Penelope Cruz), or perhaps his muse, Claudia (Nicole Kidman), who is set to be the star of the film, should it ever get made. He has also been having dreams about his mother (Sophia Loren), who has passed away. Believing that he needs a break from it all to focus on the movie, he checks into a spa to relax and recharge.

Unfortunately, the ladies in his life have other plans for him. Each one shows up at the spa to confront Guido for various infractions. The film really takes off during the musical numbers that each woman performs to express her feelings. "Nine" is at its best when the women are singing and strutting their stuff in high-energy numbers. Cinematographer Dion Beebe seems to know what each of the ladies needs, filming and framing each one to perfection.

The all-star cast also includes Judi Dench as Luigi's film colleague, who is the only female in his life whom he isn't trying to bed. She tries to keep him somewhat sane and out of trouble throughout the movie, with varying degrees of success.

With so many fantastic actors giving great performances across the board, it is hard to imagine how screenwriters John Tolkien and Anthony Minghella managed to get enough screen time for each of them. They do a delicate balancing act that manages to succeed, with Day-Lewis and Cotillard as the clear standouts.

Day-Lewis is renowned for his serious roles, so watching him slip into Guido's shoes is something of a revelation. He is still mostly serious here, portraying the gravity of Guido's situation with ease. However, when he gets the chance to sing, the audience is treated to an unexpected delight. Not only can Day-Lewis sing, but he also seems positively joyous when he does.

Cotillard is radiant as Luisa, who is not sure if she wants to hold on to her marriage. Her scenes with Day-Lewis radiate with tension and the years of pain and damage caused by Guido's affairs. Yet somehow, she manages to make Luisa seem sympathetic instead of pathetic for having stayed with the cheating louse all these years. Her first song, "My Husband Makes Movies," establishes her presence. Her sexier second number, "Take It All," one of the original songs in the film, is oozing with her desire to get out of her marriage, which is forbidden by her Catholic upbringing. Fresh off her Oscar-winning turn as singer Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose," Cotillard shows that the musical chops she displayed in that film were no flash in the pan.

Director Marshall is clearly a fan of musical theater and manages to bring that intimate, lively feeling to "Nine." Possibly the best thing about the film is that he lets his performers loose to dance and sing across the screen with unbridled enthusiasm. After seeing the movie, audiences will be left wondering whether-and hope that-Marshall will make a third musical.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars