Sunday, January 3, 2010

"NINE"? | Nein! | No Substance Beneath the Eye-Candy! [Review]

Every holiday season I can hardly wait to see movies that dazzle, mezmerize and totally blow you away. Nine is not one of these movies. Nein!

Nine lacks great songs. Even a stellar cast can't save this lame musical based on 7-time Tony-Award winning Broadway musical Nine an adaptation of Frederico Fellini's classic film 8 1/2.

Daniel Day Lewis plays the incredibly sexy celebrity director Guido Contini who around Rome is his Fiat, dark shades and black suits. He sings only two songs in the film, "Guido's Song" and "I Can't Make This Movie". The latter song is probably an inside joke at the production company.
Under Rob Marshall's direction, Nine is segmented: melodrama, song, melodrama, song. The musical numbers clearly take place on a huge stage (at the U.K.'s Shepperton Studios), while the rest of the movie occurs in Italy, though it often looks pretty stage-bound, too.

Despite the English language, the film insists it still is 1965 Rome, where black-and-white, Cinecitta Studios, Vespas, Ray-Bans and all things Italian reign in the world of fashion and Western culture. A new Guido Contini movie is about to start production, but no script exists. In despair, Guido flees to a seaside spa. Within a day, his mistress (Penelope Cruz), demanding producer, production team and then his wife (Marion Cotillard, unable to adapt well to misery) take up residence in the small town.

Sad romantic trysts and unproductive production meetings ensue. In his imagination, all the women of his life materialize. Sophia Loren plays Guido's saintly mother. She is incredible gorgeous for a seventy six year old actress (below).

Stacy Ferguson, better known as Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas, materializes on the beach from his childhood. She belts out "Be Italian" and totally kills it -- breathing some much needed life into this dreary melodrama.

Penelope Cruz and Academy Award winning actress Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) get real characters to play, but they're the stuff of bad soap opera. Cotillard, the only professionally trained singer in the cast, does her best to bring the dull musical number "My Husband Makes Movies" to life. She performs "Take It All" a livelier song in a corset and stockings. Even this song couldn't inject life into the movie. Make no mistake -- this ain't no Cabaret or even Dreamgirls!

Penelope Cruz, as Guido's mistress, gets the best number—a sizzling and sexy little romp called "A Call from the Vatican". She looks the best, and she gives the best performance. In any other movie that would be no small feat, but here she's up against Cotillard, Dench, Nicole Kidman, Day Lewis, and Sofia Loren. Cruz nails it!

Her Carla goes from silly and obtuse to injured and desperate with such a believable ease it doesn't even look like she's acting. Bravo! Now if only the entire movie could uphold her energetic "vibe".
Nicole Kidman as Guido's "muse" gets to do little other than sing the uberdull "Unusual Way". Her ill-fitted bustier takes on an unusual life of its own. It is too rigid and big for her cup size. Speaking of rigid, nothing on Kidman's face above her eyebrows moves, and I mean "nothing"!
Kate Hudson as an on-the-make American journalist sings a lively Madonna-esque version of "Cinema Italiano" on a fashion runway clad in sixties go-go silver lame attire, complete with a male entourage. The role was written for Hudson and does not exist in the original movie. Talk about "target marketing". Too bad the film doesn't have any lively glitzy songs of substance which fit the narrative of the film. Narrative? What narrative? Exactly!

Judi Dench is wonderful and wise as Guido's costume designer and therapist. Fortunately she is not asked to do much in terms of singing and dancing. She sings the predictable "Folies Bergere" number complete with showgirls as only a costume designer stereotypically can. Originally she was to play Guido's producer but there weren't many female producers in the 60's so they changed her role to that of fashion designer.

Script? What script? Exactly! The movie didn't have much of a plot. With Nine, one never gets inside the protagonist's head. So one can't decide whether his problem is too many women or too many musical numbers breaking out for no reason. What about the accents you ask? Well, let's not go there!

Nine is a visually stunning world loaded with lots of stellar eye-candy and breathtaking Rome locations. If you don't expect a whole lot more from the movie, you won't be dissapointed.

Official site: Nine
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