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Film Review: Nine

Contributor:
Samantha Lee
Samantha Lee

Nine stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido, a director trying to make his latest movie a hit, and a man searching for answers through his muses past and present; a succession of women played by some of the world’s brightest stars and singers.

It is a take on Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, which, as luck would have it, also has a main character with the unfortunate name of Guido. In case you’re wondering 8 ½ refers to Fellini’s eighth-and-a-half film as a director- I was counting the number of lead actresses in this movie before I was informed of this fact. 

Nine is not for those who like things to blow up a lot during your films. It is a relatively slow paced film with a largely unsympathetic main character.  It follows Guido through the trials and tribulations of being a celebrated film director trying to get his mojo back after a few successive flops.

The film is set in Italy so you get the benefit of gorgeous scenery and cool cars- the costumes are pretty and glittery- however, Guido is neither gorgeous, pretty or glittery.

There is something irresistible about him that quite frankly no one sitting in the theatre is going to see; however this could have been a deliberate move as this character is a good candidate for the King of all Narcissists.

However, it is not Daniel Day-Lewis that makes the movie- although he does do a convincing job of having little or no redeeming characteristics while maintaining a credible Italian accent (he learned Italian for the role). 

In this story it is the women behind the man which keep your interest, which is what director Rob Marshall hopefully intended (with a main character called Guido, you’d better hope someone else is going to make the movie). Guido’s “muses”, played in turn by Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Marion Cotillard, Stacy Ferguson (Fergie), and Sophia Loren, all turn out valid, interesting performances.

They all love Guido in some way, which is obvious, but the best part for me was seeing the resentment, hope, frustration, fondness, anger, expectation and misery that comes with that love- these are all superb performances and absolutely makes up for the fact that during most of the film you’d like to kick Guido’s you-know-what into his you-know-where. You have been warned.

The musical numbers that everyone has been talking about are quite frankly not as good as Chicago bar one or two numbers; they seemed to be mainly made up of each character’s inner dialogue: “Some men read books, some shine their shoes, some retire early when they've seen, the evening news, my husband only rarely comes to bed, my husband makes movies instead.”

This may be because only a selection of songs from the original Broadway musical of the same name made it through; sometimes the “make your thought process into a song” thing works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Reasons to go: It doesn’t really get going until halfway through, (no, once you start to get into the story and the songs you still don’t give a rat’s about Guido) - but you care about the women; Marion Cotillard as Guido’s wife turns out a superb, nuanced performance; Judi Dench has some fantastic, funny lines delivered with great timing; Fergie has hands down the best musical number I’ve seen out of Chicago and Nine.

As disappointing as it was that nothing blows up, no one spontaneously combusts and there’s no big musical finale (sorry), it gives you a good portrayal of a man in desperate need of a tranquiliser- and a great glimpse into the minds of the women who love him.

7/10

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