It's impossible for Nine not to be compared to Chicago. Both are film adaptations of Broadway musicals, both boast all-star casts and both are directed by Rob Marshall. Even further, both casts are primarily made up of gorgeous women revolving around a leading man. Nine has plenty of glitz, glamour, and fun to make for a solid two hours of entertainment, but unfortunately it may be remembered as the film that's like Chicago, but not as good.
The film is actually based on a musical that's based on an Italian play that's based on director Federico Fellini's movie 8 1/2. Got all that? In Nine, Daniel Day-Lewis works his Italian accent as Guido Contini (based on Fellini), a famous director who's struggling to find inspiration for his much-anticipated ninth film. Pushing 50, Contini finds himself in the midst of a mid-life crisis and seeks escape from the adoring public and paparazzi that are everywhere he turns (not to mention his own cast and crew that are waiting on a script). Here begins Contini's self-reflection through the many women that have influenced him over the years: from his deceased mother (Sophia Loren) to his sexy mistress (Penelope Cruz) to his neglected wife (Marion Cotillard).
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Like Italy itself, Nine has style, glamour, and passion bursting at every seam. From the costumes to the lighting to performances, there's plenty of the razzle dazzle that we all expect from a musical. The performances aren't half-bad either; it's refreshing to finally see Kate Hudson out of romantic comedy mode (and singing, no less), but Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard truly steal the show as the two principal women in Contini's life. Their characters are polar opposites — Cruz's Carla is fiery and dramatic while Cotillard's Luisa is quiet yet fierce — but it's impossible to take your eyes of either of the gorgeous and talented actresses.
I'm a bit more conflicted about Daniel Day-Lewis's performance. The actor blows my mind with his chameleon-like abilities (I was constantly asking myself if this was really the same guy who screamed "I drink your milkshake" just last year), but was he really the right choice to play Contini? Day-Lewis is fun to watch and charming for sure, but I couldn't help but wonder if the role would have been even sexier and spicier with original choice Javier Bardem as the lead.
As for the musical numbers, each one is wonderful and impressive in its own right. The majority of the numbers are solos as Guido and his entourage of women take the stage one at a time to tell their own part of the story, but that doesn't mean the ladies can't bring down the house all on their own. Particularly memorable are Fergie's tour de force "Be Italian" and Kate Hudson's over-the-top, music video-like "Cinema Italiano." When the ladies perform the sets are designed to look like the Broadway stage and I found myself on the verge of clapping after many of them. The problem is that the musical numbers don't totally gel with the rest of the plot; each time a song comes on we are taken out of the present-time plot to spotlight one of Contini's women, and I would have liked to see a more seamless transition.
The secret to watching Nine is to just sit back and enjoy the ride. There's plenty of sexy songs, watchable actors, and funny moments to make for a flashy, fun film.
Photos courtesy of The Weinstein Company