— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —
“Nine” is like the “Big Mouth Billy Bass” advertised on late-night television; it sings, it dances and it works as a wall-ornament, but it also lacks emotion. And though Rob Marshall’s third film works as a sub-par musical, it is emotionally inept and it’s a shame that it leaves no lasting impression other than “what a waste of talent.”
In “Nine,” Daniel Day-Lewis plays a respected Italian director by the name of Guido Contini, who is on the verge of making a “masterpiece” — or so he calls it. While filming his latest epic, Guido struggles to find balance in his professional and personal life as his relationships with his wife, mistress, producer and mother are put into question. The premise is similar to “Broken Embraces,” which was released earlier this year, and, as a fun fact, both films also starred Penélope Cruz as the mistress to the director.
Rob Marshall gives the impression that “Nine” is a musical about the struggles of film-making but instead the plot of “Nine” simply serves as a backbone for impressive musical numbers and this makes like its a sophisticated music-video rather than a feature-length film. The characters are barely developed even for a musical’s standards and the lack of chemistry between the cast brings the curtains down early for this musical.
Leading the troupe, the talented Daniel Day-Lewis doesn’t show the same spark that he showed openly in his epic “There Will Be Blood.” Perhaps he should stick to playing mineral prospectors because as an Italian playboy he doesn’t exert any charm whatsoever.
But in Day-Lewis’ defense, his female co-stars do not do a much better job. Cruz’s performance is bland, even though she plays essentially the same character as she did in “Broken Embraces.” However, her character in “Nine,” Carla, is not nearly as interesting and developed. Marion Cotillard is equally boring as Mrs. Contini.
Through the film’s numerous potholes, there are rays of hope in the musical numbers. Each and every one of them are visually brilliant and are performed excellently. It’s a shame that the dull story-telling overshadows these powerhouse musical performances.
“Nine” shows that even if a film features good music and is shot beautifully, it needs emotion, and this is where the characters and plot come in; however, the boring relationships in Rob Marshall’s second musical only serve as tests of patience between the energetic musical scores. There is a way to avoid the film’s shortcomings, buy the movie’s soundtrack, or if you want to see it for yourself, just rent it when the DVD comes out.
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