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Nine

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Director Rob Marshall had a dilemma: what movie could he possibly make to out-do the success of his Oscar-winning musical, Chicago? Audiences had been charmed by the surprising vocals of an unusual cast of talent including Renee Zellweger as one of the leads. For his next film, Marshall would have to pour on the glitz and bring in arguably one of the best casts on paper to outshine his former film. He would take a wildly popular 1950’s Broadway show called Nine, based off the Fellini film 8 ½ and weave it into a complex web of flashbacks and often strangely pieced musical numbers sung by a cast that would surely pull audiences to the show just for simply being on the screen. And somehow despite all the efforts of a glamorous cast and pre-release hype, Marshall’s newest film, Nine, sank lower than the skirts of the leading ladies in the movie.

Nine begins with the typical antics of an aging powerhouse man. Guido Contini, world-renowned film director and lady-lover has suddenly run out of ideas and time. He leans on the leading ladies in his life for support only to find that they have moved past the flashy enchantment of his directing. Academy Award winner, Daniel Day Lewis, plays a shadowy, conflicted Guido, who wrestles with his fantasies of his “lost” women through elaborate music numbers and skimpy costumes. Marion Cotillard is Gudio’s cheated wife, Luisa, who spends most of the film miserable because her husband has no time for her as he is too busy pleasing the needs of his mistress, Carla (Penelope Cruz), his muse, Claudia (Nicole Kidman), costume director, Lilli (Judi Dench) and even his dead mother (Sophia Loren).

And as if the cast couldn’t get any larger, Kate Hudson and Fergie make brief appearances as a sexy Vogue journalist and a prostitute from Guido’s childhood. Each leading lady has at least one music number, in which she expresses her deepest feelings for Guido as well as showing off her dancing (and in Penelope Cruz’s case, pole dancing) skills. Without the dancing scenes, Guido’s cigarette-induced and drunken whining about his despondent life would have been the classic redundancy of an unhappy man in the midst of his mid-life crisis

While Daniel Day Lewis portrays Guido with lukewarm-interest, the lead’s childish suffering became dreadfully dull after the first thirty minutes, it was Marion Cotillard and Penelope Cruz caught in a rivalry of attention that stole Nine. Cotillard’s Luisa actually possessed a backbone and the rocky emotions of a wife caught in a persistent scandal with her husband and his mistress without looking completely oblivious or idiotically heartbroken to the situation. And had Penelope Cruz made Guido’s needy mistress, Carla, any more sensuous and tempting, the audience would have needed the largest bucket of ice the theater provided to cool down after her sultry dance wrapped in silk curtains. Even Kate Hudson made a decent impression dancing and belting, “Cinema Italiano.” Or maybe it was just the diamond-coated mini-skirt and silvery go-go boots that she wore parading about the stage.

The music numbers certainly made the movie and without them, the film’s wishy-washy, storyline revolving around Guido’s troubled thoughts would have earned Nine a Razzie Award for worst film of the year. Only at the very end of the movie did Guido attempt to redeem himself by conjuring a slightly optimistic outlook on his directing future and by then his moody, pessimistic attitude could not be overcome. In complete contrast to Guido’s darkness, the ladies of Nine lit up the screen in an array of dazzling costumes and larger than life diva-attitudes. Whether it was the sparkling amber lingerie Marion Cotillard donned in a seductive bar scene or the classy, yet low-cut suit Judi Dench danced in as the theater’s ringmaster, it is a wonder that the audience did not end the film coated in drool.

Rob Marshall took a gigantic risk with the fantastical Nine pinning the film’s chances of survival on his incredible cast and almost indescribable music numbers. The cast for the most part lived up to expectations, though Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard explicitly picked up the slack for actors like Nicole Kidman and Sophia Loren whose characters seemed underdeveloped. The storyline is fairly forgettable and even some of the music numbers seemed stretched beyond the abilities of the actors involved (Kate Hudson might need a vocal lesson or two before appearing on Broadway). However no one could possibly leave the theater without absolutely salivating over Fergie’s sizzling rendition of “Be Italian.”

If you fancy a classic tragedy and a strong lead character, Nine will most likely leave you disappointed from a poor storyline and a typical, griping pessimist. However, if drooling over theatrically and musically talented women is your idea of sitting through a good movie, Nine is worth the ten dollar ticket price.





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