Rating: 3 out of 5
Nine is a ravishingly grandiose and stylishly retro capriccio rhapsody at its most sublimely seductive. At one point our lead croons, “What's a good thing for if not taking it to excess?" and it seems as if director Rob Marshall (Chicago) has taken that to heart
The film’s disjointed narrative follows famed swinging 60’s Italian movie maestro Guido Contini (inhabited marvellously by Daniel Day-Lewis), as he struggles to project his unhindered imagination into a successful feature film.
His eagerly anticipated new production, entitled Italia, is scheduled to begin filming in ten days. The only problem is Guido hasn’t written a word of the script. Writers everywhere (including this one) can certainly identify.
As the pressure to produce genius on demand intensifies, so does his writer’s block, which is where the women in his life come into play, as simultaneous inspiration and distraction. Guido’s women are like sparkling moons orbiting his increasingly debauched stratosphere.
We meet his hedonistic mistress (Penelope Cruz), sophisticated but shattered wife (Marion Cotillard), wise confidant (Judi Dench), glamorous muse (Nicole Kidman), towering mother (Sophia Loren), flirty fashionista (Kate Hudson) and fiery whore (Fergie). Now that’s a cast to brag about.
Guido is a self-absorbed shell of shallowness and yet Day-Lewis’ mercurial magnetism somehow manages to make him seem oddly sympathetic. Despite his womanising ways and a lack of a moral compass, even the staunchest feminist out there would probably swoon at Day-Lewis’ self-loathing tortured soul routine.
I adored the dazzling vibrancy of Marshall’s adaptation of the 1982 Broadway musical (itself adapted from Fellini’s dreamily trippy 8 ½) so very much and yet the film does present a whole load of flaws that are just impossible to ignore.
It’s puzzling that such a grand spectacle, helmed by such an accomplished musical director, could be so sadly bereft of catchy show tunes. This musical is seemingly better when nobody is singing, not because the cast aren’t capable (they’re amazing), but because the adapted compositions and arrangements simply aren’t up to par.
Everything except two touching ballads (both by Cotillard), designed to showcase the weariness of Guido’s wife, Luisa, are easily forgettable. Perhaps that’s because of the emotion imbued in them by the classy Cotillard. The rest are fluff set-pieces, stunning but suffocated in superficiality.
The best musicals are not just a medley of music videos, they have music that is both alluring and insightful, music that speaks to you about the characters and drama in ways that traditional dialogue cannot. As immersive and captivating as Nine is, this is one crucial piece of magic that Marshall fails to conjure up.
The musical-junkie in me loves the chic carnival atmospherics, but its soulless story, meandering focus and mediocre music prevents me from giving Nine a wholehearted recommendation.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, aka inSing.com's Movie Lover, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for Metrowize Asia.
Hidzir is the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.