Reviewed by: Chris

A short, honest review of this film might read: “A lazy, self-indulgent waste of money, skill and celluloid. Don’t go to see it.”

Somehow we come to expect a review to expend more column inches than that, even on the most undeserving pile of tosh. So defending the above review against anyone that might tell you otherwise, I shall proceed.

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Nine is about a film director who doesn’t have a story. And that just about sums up the movie. Sadly, execrably, even ironically sums it up. But not ‘cleverly’ sums it up. There is no scintillating intellectual self-perception here. Just a lack of story. Expensively and professionally packaged.

Daniel Day-Lewis is Guido Conti, revered Italian movie-maker. He tells himself he needs to be surrounded by beautiful women to act as his ‘muses’. There are expensive (and very beautiful) sets. Perfect camera angles. Exquisite lighting. But very little story – whether in the film-within-a-film or in the movie itself. As Guido plays out his fantasies with his wife, his mistress and his leading ladies, passions are presented as extravagant song-and-dance numbers.

Penélope Cruz (as his mistress) occupies the largest acting role for a woman and throws herself into it with an eye-candy appeal characterised by her trademark fire and histrionics. Marion Cotillard also acquits herself well, offering a glimpse of the singing capabilities that delighted us in La Vie En Rose. Nicole Kidman pouts prettily and kisses seductively - rather like a perfume advert. Pleasant performances also from Judi Dench, Kate Hudson and Sophia Loren.

It reminds me of a series of auditions where actresses, lighting experts, choreographers and so on, all demonstrate their impeccable skills. What is totally lacking is any semblance of a film upon which to apply them. I am not surprised my companion fell asleep before the end. There is no doubting the quality of talent. But should people really get awards for ‘audition’ performances? Do not actors bear some responsibility at that level, for choosing worthy vehicles? (Kidman in particular, seems to have lost all sense of direction for movies of substance, having lost the commitment to greatness which, in her ‘Tom Cruise’ period, saw her achieve the title, greatest actress of our generation.)

Any analysis of why the ‘muse’ theory failed is backshelved for a whimsical kowtowing to the sacrament of marriage, providing the most miserable subtext imaginable. For a true example of ‘muse,’ the channelling of artistic inspiration, one only needs to look at the much healthier example of Cruz and Almodóvar – two artists who spark off each other as equals in their respective fields. Nine is no paean to womanhood. It extols the sleazy open-crotch of temptation, then castigates us and says the only redemption is through marriage. The afterthought ending follows the usual formula: be a ‘good’ (i.e. god-fearing) person, and somehow everything will turn out happily in the end. Irrespective of talent, reality and everything that has gone before.

It’s traditional to say some nice things about even the worst Oscar-bait movies, so I will try. Director Rob Marshall has put together a winning package. As with the visually appealing Chicago, or the deceitful Memoirs Of A Geisha, the Weinstein Money is safe in his hands. And, while you might see a superior display of terpsichorean skills on Strictly Come Dancing, you do at least see proper celebrities here instead of people trying to make a come-back.

As musicals go (i.e. films where the songs are not very catchy), the tunes are not bad. I preferred many of them to say, the endless ditties of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. But it is still a collection of goodies sans a point. It saddens me that people of the calibre of Penélope Cruz put their name to films like this. While she might unite with Almodóvar on a string of reputable hits, the only union on this one is a paycheck dangled from a g-string. The title – never explained – involves references to the life of the great Italian director, Fellini. While it might have worked more honestly on stage, here its reference to a great artist seems almost obscene.

I can think of many ways you could better spend an evening than watching this movie. But I can recommend the trailer. It includes all the best bits. And, unlike the film, it is mercifully short.

Reviewed on: 08 Jan 2010
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Nine packshot
A famous film director struggling for inspiration is torn between the influences of the different women in his life.
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Director: Rob Marshall

Writer: Michael Tolkin, Anthony Minghella

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, Fergie

Year: 2009

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, Italy


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