Movie Review: Nine

>> Friday, January 01, 2010

Forgive me father for I have sinned, it has been two months since my last movie and after this long stretch I returned to the theater for Nine. The thing that attracted me most to the movie was the great, great cast. Dame Judi Dench who's always a pleasure to see, Nicole Kidman, the very beautiful Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Fergie and they even got the legendary Sophia Loren. I didn't know anything about the story but my friend BL, who's a big theater fan, told me that Nine was originally a Broadway musical that managed to do better than Dreamgirls when they were both showing at the same time in 1982, so I went in with high expectations and they do tell you what happens when you have high expectations, don't they?

Nine is about world famous director Guido Contini facing his own mid-life crisis. With some early success, the whole Italy have high expectations on its own golden boy Guido Contini when he announced that he will be starting production in less than a week on his upcoming movie boldly named Italia but in fact Guido has yet to come up with a script, not even a storyline. As he escaped to a spa along the coastline to soul search, he is faced with other problems like his much ignored wife Luisa, his married and somewhat obsessed lover Carla, a young American reporter who seduces Guido for some inside scoop, his movies' leading lady Claudia while spiritual guides in the from of a prostitute, his dead mother and a seamstress friend appeared.

The movie while pleasant at times has many, many problems. I was pleased to be able to see a very brilliant cast, but most of them only interacts with Guido and not each other. They are all given a 5-10 minutes time to explain their relation with Guido, mostly through a song but it was to sparse for any character development. Worst of all, the songs were not memorable. Throughout the movie, I was wondering why it was named Nine. It was not a number that has been mentioned anywhere, I counted the women around him and only came up with 7 and it remained to be a puzzle throughout the movie.

Guido was presented as a wimpy guy who can't handle pressure, who lies and cheats to get forgiveness for the things he did and when the women leaves him one after another, I start to wonder why they loved him in the first place. Probably because he made them look pretty and perfect as a director, but that point did not come across. Actually nothing much came across. Fergie played a prostitute who lived in a sand mount at the beach and nothing was said about her significance on Guido's life, she was just a loon who came up and sung a song.

BL was worried about Sophia Loren's singing skills but she didn't get much chance on that. Kate Hudson was wonderful as a singer but her outfit was more 70s than early 60s. Penelope Cruz plays a bimbo mistress with trashy highlights, who's a bit overtly sexual for Guido. (I didn't know people other Charo actually say "Coochie-coochie-coo!") With a film set in Italy, they surely didn't show much of any sights. The entire film is a bit stuffy, looks like it could have been filmed inside a sound stage. And then part of it was spoken in French, Italian and accented English that makes the movie even harder to figure out.

The fact is, I really wanted to like Nine. But with the depressing storyline, the lack of stellar story telling just conjured up a general sense of bummer-y. I would have sat and watched the cast play Texas Hold'em and managed to have a better time. BL and I will rent 8 1/2 next time and see how the story should have gone. Did I mention that the songs are not catchy?

A little bit of everything, plenty of nothing. C

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