I have not been this divided on a film in quite a while. On the one hand, it is a magnificent technical achievement, and the performances are superb down the line. On the other hand, Nine is based on a musical based on Federico Fellini’s 8½. It is not a good musical. As such, it does not feel like a very good film.
With one exception (“Be Italian”), the songs are forgettable messes, and the story is a betrayal of everything that made the source material great. But, here’s the thing: director Rob Marshall (of Chicago fame) knows how to stage a big production number. The choreography, the editing, the overall energy of each musical sequence-- they all come together like perfectly matched puzzle pieces. The problem remains, however, that the whole puzzle just isn’t that interesting.
The story revolves around Guido Contini, the eternally misanthropic Daniel Day Lewis, and the pressures placed on him by the women in his life. He is a movie director with no movie to direct, and he seeks inspiration from his wife (Marion Cotillard), his mistress (Penelope Cruz), his confidant (Judi Dench), his muse (Nicole Kidman), and the women from his past (Sophia Loren and Fergie). All are great in one way or another, though Cotillard is a cut above the rest.
In a part that is either underwritten or unnecessary, Kate Hudson plays a reporter who tells Guido that “style is the new substance.” This could be the mantra for the whole movie. The beautifully layered story in Fellini’s masterpiece is cut to ribbons, pretty ribbons and nicely presented, but ribbons none the less. So, as much as I hate to say it, I can’t recommend this movie. Instead, spend your money and your two hours renting the original Fellini film.
See it: No