Reviewed by Russ Simmons
When director Rob Marshall’s cinematic adaptation of the Broadway musical “Chicago” won the 2002 Oscar for Best Picture, many were hopeful that he could revive the public’s interest in the once popular genre.
But Marshall’s next project was an adaptation of the novel, “Memoirs of a Geisha,” a beautifully produced but emotionally barren mounting of the bestseller.
Marshall has returned to his roots with “Nine,” a meticulously staged version of the hit Broadway musical which was, in turn, an adaptation of Federico Fellini’s classic autobiographical film, “8 1/2.”
Unfortunately, “Nine” is an example of a whole that is less than the sum of its parts.
The story is set in the swinging 1960s. Daniel Day Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”) stars as Italian filmmaker Guido Contini, a famed auteur in pre-production on his ninth movie.
Guido, however, is struggling with creative block. Lacking inspiration and a screenplay, he’s retreated into navel-gazing mode, taking solace in the arms of a number of different women.
His serial philandering is problematic because he’s supposedly a happily married man.
Fleeing Rome for a seaside resort hotel, Guido hopes to clear his mind long enough to come up with an idea for the new movie. His producer and hundreds of members of the production crew are counting on it.
But the only things that pop into Guido’s mind are images of the women in his life.
The parade of ladies includes his wife (Marion Cotillard), his mistress (Penelope Cruz), his mother (Sophia Loren), his film’s star (Nicole Kidman), a prostitute from his childhood (Stacey “Fergie” Furguson), his costume designer (Judi Dench) and an entertainment journalist (Kate Hudson).
Each of these women gets her own musical number that take place in Guido’s fertile yet furtive imagination.
In order for a movie musical to work, the songs must somehow be integral to the story and propel the narrative. Here, they seem like distractions that jerk the viewer out of the story and put the narrative on hold.
But some of these numbers are quite entertaining. Cruz offers a terrifically sexy number that ably arouses Guido’s libido, and Hudson energetically engages in a zippy bit of 60s go-go dancing.
Cotillard warbles “Unusual Way,” managing to make her number a dramatically satisfying soliloquy and Fergie makes the most of the catchy “Cinema Italiano.”
But for the most part, Maury Yeston’s music is forgettable and intrusive.
Day-Lewis is normally a riveting actor, but this character is too inscrutable to be very compelling.
While Marshall has provided a beautifully produced and sporadically entertaining musical, “Nine” is a number that doesn’t quite add up to a completely satisfying whole. (PG-13) Rating: ***
* Avoid at all costs
** Only if you're bored
*** Good movie
**** Well worth your time
***** Be sure to see it