Nine (2009) Rob Marshall
Production Budget: $80 million
Worldwide Gross $32 million
Nine is a Broadway remake (which I never heard of) of the Fellini film 8 ½. We follow Guido (Daniel Day Lewis) as he is going into production on a new film. The only problem is he has no idea what it is about and cannot get started. In this time he reflects on the many women in his life.
Since I can’t think of a clever way to really start this review I just wanna fling myself on a tangent and ask something. When the hell are they going to make the musical Les Miserables? Why are we scraping around the barrel for minor Broadway hits when you have one of the most memorable musicals that no film director has ever done? I would rather talk about this, then try to rack my brains describing why Nine is about as dull as watching the Weeping Meadow at half speed. I take it back. This movie is nowhere near as dull as the Weeping Meadow (that is a physical impossibility). No this movie would rank maybe near Ghost in the Shell boring. Yeah, I went there.
I suppose one of my big gripes is that it betrays the point of the original. 8 ½ is essentially a deeply personal portrait of Fellini’s own life and feelings. Through his trademark circus veneer we see Fellini dealing with issues of high artistic expectations, mother issues, religious issues, and his fascinations with women in his life. At the same time he has severe writers block and it could be argued his personal problems are feeding his work problems and vice versa. It was genuine because it was the artist coming out and laying his heart out for the audience to see. In Nine, we don’t get that feeling at all. Instead, Guido’s problems are almost that of a silly sitcom. Guido is like a cartoon character chasing after skirts and everything else seems to go to the back burner. The movie feels like it is in a test pattern until about the hour and forty minute mark when we finally get our conflict. Guido’s wife (played by Marion Cotillard) finally gets fed up with Guido’s childish sh*t and wants him to change. The resolution of which is so sudden and forced I was literally thinking to myself “What!? That’s it!?”
All this could be forgiven though if the songs were any good. They aren’t. I know I am not a big fan of musicals (although I liked Marshall’s Chicago) but there were only about two songs out of the bunch that were any good. Marion Cotillard absolutely steals the show with one single number. It woke me up out of my boredom induced coma and wonder where the f*ck the rest of the intensity was in this movie. Seriously, if you just wanna see that song on YouTube and screw the rest of the movie, by all means. The majority of the songs sound like typical Broadway doodling that might as well be white noise. Fergie does alright with “Be Italian” but the song context wise is so forced it is almost painful to watch. It just doesn’t fit in the narrative. And for a movie about showing love of Italian cinema, it does seem a bit odd that all the songs are done on a theatrical stage. It almost seems like Marshall loved the Broadway production so much he didn’t want to change the look of it for the screen.
The actors have nothing to do here. Yeah you have a star studded cast, but the women have so little time they don’t have a chance of developing any kind of character. They are simply window dressing. That’s not the worst thing in the world. I mean, you see pretty much all of them in their underwear (except Judi Dench thank god). But it is a shame that you essentially waste all that talent just for some eye candy. I love Daniel Day Lewis, but he contributes nothing to the film. Maybe the blame has to fall once again on the writing though because I can’t imagine anyone making this role work.
Now I am no snob touting 8 ½ as movie perfection and I am actually pretty accepting of remakes (or reboots as it is apt to say nowadays). I personally didn’t enjoy 8 ½ as much as the majority of its fans do. I just really don’t see the point of this movie. It seems tailor made to not appeal to any audience. Fans of 8 ½ won’t want to sit through a lousy attempt at a Hollywood cash in, and most of the mainstream have no idea what 8 ½ or even Nine is so they aren’t that enthusiastic to see it in theaters. It works as a kind of niche attraction on Broadway, but it certainly doesn’t have national appeal. But even overlooking all that Nine is just not a good musical. The writing is dull, the acting is non-existent, and the songs are generic crap. There really is nothing impressive about this movie and no reason to check this out. Chalk up another bomb for the Weinstein Company.