DIR: Rob Marshall • WRI: Michael Tolkin, Anthony Minghella • PRO: John DeLuca, Rob Marshall, Marc Platt, Rob Marshall, Harvey Weinstein • DOP: Dion Beebe • ED: Claire Simpson, Wyatt Smith • DES: John Myhre • CAST: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz

Nine is a film based on Federico Fellini’s autobiographical film 8 1/2 (1963), and on the 1982 Tony award-winning musical, Nine, book by Arthur Kopit, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, adaptation from the Italian by Mario Fratti. It is the story of Italian film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis). He has recently turned forty and is facing a mid-life-crisis with his willingness to be a professional and creative director and a romantic to his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard) and his mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz). The setting is Rome in 1965.

Judi Dench plays Lilli, Guido’s costume designer. She tells Guido before he goes to a press conference to do what he does best – ‘Lie, lie for Italia’. Dench appears in a flashback sequence on stage when Guido was a boy singing ‘Folies Bergère’. Day-Lewis appears above the stage in a touching scene of nostalgia. Kate Hudson has a cameo as a young and foxy Vogue columnist, Stephanie. She remarks to Guido, that every frame in his films is like a postcard. Grammy-nominated singer Fergie appears in some musical sequences as the irresistible Saraghina. She gives a wonderful performance of ‘Be Italian’ – The best song in the film. Nicole Kidman is the beautiful movie star Claudia, an old flame of Guido’s. Penélope Cruz has a most erotic rendition of ‘A Call from the Vatican’. It will raise a few eyebrows over the decision of a 12A rating. Carla wants to spend more time with Guido, but he is preoccupied with many other things.

Daniel Day-Lewis shines as always. He really gets into the character of Guido with his mannerisms and dialogue. Marion Cotillard adds more emotional core to the film with her renditions of ‘My Husband Makes Movies’ and ‘Take It All’. In a key scene Luisa says to Guido: ‘Thank you for reminding me I’m not special. You don’t even see what you do to me. Even the moments I think are ours, it’s just… you work to get what you want…’

There are several scenes in black and white beautifully photographed by Dion Beebe – flashbacks of Guido’s childhood in a Catholic school in which he first discovers women and also some of the music sequences. Guido like many artists is flawed and trying to find a way to balance his job and love life, this proves very difficult for him. As in any musical the characters express their anxieties though song and it works well.

Rob Marshall is the director and co-choreographer. He made his name with the smash hit Chicago back in 2002. Marshall has a style that is impressive on the musical front, however, it is lacking in the substance of its characters. Michael Tolkin and late Anthony Minghella, to whom this film is dedicated, wrote the screenplay.

The musical sequences are mostly performed on a sound stage, with flashy costumes. The music is enjoyable and John DeLuca and Rob Marshall excellently choreograph the dancing. It is what it is: a musical, and it succeeds on that level. But the all-star cast overwhelms the picture, to the degree that it feels like a guest list. Kidman, Dench and Cotillard all have very little screen time. Cotillard was also underwritten earlier this year in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies. Her talent deserves more. If her character had more substance, her relationship with Day-Lewis, would have been more believable. Sophia Loren appears in a cameo to Guido as his dead mother, it will always spark the reaction from the audience that is ‘Look, there’s Sophia Loren’. All and all it keeps you interested and is worth recommending with some reservations.

Peter Larkin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Nine is released on 25 Dec 2009

Nine – Official Website

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