Throw Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Marion Cotilliard, Dame Judi Dench, Daniel Day Lewis, and FERGIE onto the same elaborate set and what do you get? Pure, unadulterated, musical theater-wannabe crap!
Like most reviewers who’ve already lambasted the mega musical update of the Broadway show, I will heartily agree that Nine is bright lights, star names, and little else. From the over-lyrical musical numbers to the plot that isn’t really a plot at all, Nine is a series of one hot-mess of a scene after another. To sum up my initial reaction after seeing the film: when Fergie is the only thing I really remember about the last 2.5 hours of what I just sat through, something has gone horribly wrong.
Nine, based on the characters in the classic Fellini film 8 1/2, is set in 1960s Italy and tells the story of celebrity director Guido Contini (Daniel Day Lewis), who struggles to find inspiration for his latest film while evaluating the role various women have played in his life and creativity. It’s rare than I can summarize a movie in one sentence alone, but when it’s as lacking of a plot as Nine is, doing so is not much of a challenge. The film focuses more on stylistic musical numbers to carry the story of Contini’s struggle to get serious about his pending film and his marriage to wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard), but unfortunately most of the numbers fall short. Really short.
Some are forgettable–Marion Cotillard’s ballad about her husband constantly forgetting her? Can’t even remember the chorus. Others are overly-lyrical–Daniel Day Lewis’ “Guido’s Song” sounds more like a couch session with his therapist than a song-and-dance number. Then, there are the pure fluff numbers–Kate Hudson’s singing debut “Cinema Italiano” should probably have just been called “I Want to F*ck. Preferably An Italian Director.” And, finally, there are the bizarre–Dame Judi Dench’s ode to the storied theatre group “Folies Bergeres” didn’t leave me wondering about the history of the troupe, but rather who was responsible for squeezing Dame Judi into a corset way too small. Not a good look, to say the least.
While most of the numbers are rough, there are a few stand-outs. Namely, Fergie’s rendition of “Be Italian.” I went into the film expecting Fergie to be the weakest amongst the cast of esteemed actors including Day Lewis and Dench, but her fiery performance proved she was more than capable of carrying her own. The “My Humps” singer channeled a raw energy for the number, bringing an element of old-school 1960s Italian sensuality to the film much like the brand of sexy her co-star Sofia Loren is known for. Similarly smoldering was Penelope Cruz, in the strip-tease dance number “The Call of the Vatican.” Donning teeny tiny lingerie and spreading her legs in ways I never thought an Oscar winner could, Cruz owns the song and finds a way to make it both steamily sexy and cute n’ cheeky at the same time. View a short clip of Cruz’s glamorous performance below– pretty unbelievably hot right?
Even though most of the movie is a wash, director Rob Marshall–best known for directing the other smash movie-musical of the decade, Chicago–does a good job of capturing the stylish essence of 1960s Italian culture in the film. If nothing more, Nine is 2+ hours of high-glam, beautiful cinematography and lighting so superb it even makes stiff-faced Botox-devotee Nicole Kidman look gorgeous. The costumes are all sequins and ruffles, and each shot is progressively more stylish than the last. But that’s the problem with Nine, it’s all style and no substance. Hollywood really believes that audiences today are dumbed down enough to enjoy sheer spectacle devoid of content. We may love Jersey Shore, but we’re not that dumb, yet. Eight star-names a major movie biz marketing campaign does make, but a good musical? Unfortunately, not.
Nine is now playing nationwide.
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