Fri 25 Dec 2009
If you’re celebrating never having to see this film again, I’m in!
It’s appropriate that director Rob Marshall’s “Nine” is the third major film this year to have that number in the title (“District 9“, “9“) because it’s the third best of the trio (and they’re ranked in that order). Though to be fair, there are only a dozen or so films I could mention this year I found less enjoyable than this latest musical turned film.
What’s so terribly about this you ask? Well, we’ll start with music that just did not work for me at all. That should be the backbone of any musical and although I like the genre very much, I’d rather listen to one of the Disney tweens lament about their 3 week boyfriend than endure the cliché setups involved here.
I realize that the musical is supposed to be loosely associated with Federico Fellini’s “8 1/2″ but really, this seems like a slap in the face rather than a homage and I can only assume it plays better on stage. Where did the film go wrong? Well, I’ll start with the casting.
The story revolves around a famed Italian director trying to make a comeback after a string of flops. On the surface, casting Daniel Day-Lewis seems like a good idea because he’s such a tremendous actor. However, he’s not Italian nor was I ever able to suspend my disbelief on the issue. Then there’s his muse, Nicole Kidman. This is probably the most egregious casting because if there’s anyone I wouldn’t mistake for Italian, it’s Kidman. Besides, how do you cast an ice queen as the fiery soul of Italian cinema? And while this is a musical, why is Fergie asked to gain 20 pounds and sing ‘Be Italian’? In that performance, the parts of it where she’s playing in the waves at the beach just reminded me of a Belinda Carlisle video (that I’d rather have been watching).
I will admit that Judi Dench does a nice job of being British (shock), Marion Cotillard remains French (hooray!) and Penelope Cruz is a fun mistress (call me). But neither of those things come as a surprise and neither of them make up for the rest of the film. No, this “blockbuster” delivers 115 minutes of mind-numbing boredom. The sets were well done but when I’m trying to keep myself awake by admiring set construction, I think the film is missing its mark.
Now, I know I’m coming off as a curmudgeon but there was no point in the film where I wasn’t waiting for the credits to roll. I had to concentrate to remember that we were supposed to be in Italy, seeing as most of the cast were recognizable foreigners and if someone starts playing the music from the film near me, I’ll be headed in the other direction.
Would I recommend anyone else see this? Well, I’ll just say that if you’ve noticed some my contrived paragraph starters, you’ll realize I did so to keep myself interested in writing a full review. If you want to see “Nine”, go rent another musical and enjoy that. A 1.5 out of 5, I gave “Nine” an extra boost because it does take talent and work to pull off a production this ambitious and I recognize that. However, I also want such effort to entertain me and that’s exactly what didn’t happen here.
I think all the hype surrounding the film comes from people who either haven’t seen it yet and/or are basing their esteem on Marshall and the cast. This and “Invictus” are the awards head scratchers of the year and although I expect them to get nominations, I hope the final vote recognizes excellence and not popularity.