Film review by: Witney Seibold
Who the Hell is Rob Marshall’s “Nine” made for? It’s based on an obscure off-Broadway musical with forgettable songs and strange subject matter. It follows a character named Guido Contini, but is clearly an avatar for Federico Fellini; the title alludes to Fellini’s “8 ½.” The story is about the artist’s struggle to separate his art from his personal life, and how his own lechery is the biggest distraction from his creative process. Just like “8 ½.”
The people who are familiar with the works of Fellini will see “Nine” as pusillanimous. Those who aren’t familiar with Fellini may be confused as to why this sort of art is important. And those who are connoisseurs of musicals will find a group of largely unimpressive, unnecessarily glitzy musical numbers that don’t even really match the mediocre numbers in Marshall’s successful “Chicago.”
“Nine” is not horrible, but it is unnecessary. It des, at least feature one really good number, but more on that in a second.
Daniel Day-Lewis plays the Contini/Fellini character, and has announced that he’s going to make the biggest film of his career. He has already assembled a cast and costumes, and a set is being built, but he has not even started on the screenplay. In order to flee the pressing eyes of his associates and of reporters, he flees to a seaside hotel where he begins to have various dealing with all the important women in his life. There’s his costume designer and confidant (Judi Dench), there’s his actress muse (Nicole Kidman), there’s the watchful eye of his mamma (the wonderful Sofia Loren), there’s the hooker he visited in childhood (Fergie), there’s the smoky flirts of his married mistress (Penélope Cruz), and there’s the concerned suffering glares from his unfairly-treated wife (Marion Cotillard). There’s also an American reporter in there played by Kate Hudson, but she serves little function. In true Hamlet-like fashion, Contini doesn’t seem able to choose which of these women he wants to devote himself to, ending up coming to ruin out of lechery and indecision. A lot like in a real Italian movie. Real Italian movies I’d rather watch.
“Nine” offers one truly excellent number, and it comes from, of all people, pop star Fergie as the busty prostitute. She sings about being Italian, dances well, sings very well, and bothered to put on weight for the role so she closely resembles the zaftig objects of Fellini’s lusts. For a few minutes, “Nine” becomes swift and stellar and fun.
There are also some cute references to Fellini’s films.
Altogether, though, “Nine” is dull, forgettable, and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why Marshall decided to adapt this particular musical to film. It’s like being given millions of dollars to adapt a Shakespeare play to film, and you choose to make “Edward III,” one of the apocryphal plays.
Wait until the film is on video, and skip ahead to the “Be Italian” number, and you’ve seen all you need to.