DVD Review: Nine

Style is the new content,” Kate Hudson’s character Stephanie, an American fashion journalist working for Vogue told Guido Contini. Well, that’s about sums up the sensibility of this movie, which is nothing short of style over substance.

Based on Frederico Fellini’s 8-1/2 (reviewed by guest blogger Rockerdad), it centers on the renowned Italian director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) who’s having a serious writer’s block and personal crisis right in the middle of filming of his new movie. Apparently Guido is so highly regarded that when any project he sets his sights on will get green-lit even without so much as a script. So the million dollar set is built, costumes are designed and sown, famous movie stars are cast… but, nobody knows what the story is all about. All the constant attention, pressures from the media, and the producers anxious to hear what he’ll do next all caving in on him like a landslide and Guido is trapped underneath, gasping for air.

At the center of it all is the women that encircles him, both from the past and the future: his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard), his mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz), his film star muse Claudia (Nicole Kidman), his confidant and costume designer Lilli (Judi Dench), an American fashion journalist Stephanie (Kate Hudson), the whore from his youth Saraghina (Fergie) and his mother (Sophia Loren). Each of these women and their encounter with the director offers a glimpse of Guido’s eccentricity and reveals what a flawed ‘hero’ he is.

When I first heard about this movie last Summer, I thought ‘Wow, this is going to be a massive hit when it’s released during the holiday season!’ Just looking at the impressive cast and Rob Marshall’s cred as the director of the Oscar’s Best Picture winner Chicago, it seemed that this one is destined for success. Alas, this was perhaps one of the biggest flops of last year. Its domestic total barely made up a quarter of the $80 million budget! (per Box Office Mojo) and it bombed critically too, earning a paltry 36% on RottenTomatoes. The consensus on RT says: It has a game, great-looking cast, led by the always worthwhile Daniel Day-Lewis, but Rob Marshall’s Nine is chaotic and curiously distant. I concur.

Nine_GuidoLouisaNow, I’m not saying the movie is a complete waste of time. It’s sort of the case where the parts are actually greater than the whole, as some of the song/dance scenes are quite memorable, though when put together as a movie it’s all a bit… disconcerted. Before I get to the scenes, let me just talk about the performances. Now, Day-Lewis is a maestro in acting, so even in a not-so-great movies, this guy still delivers a solid rendition of the main character. So he didn’t really shine like a new penny, as he spends most of the time sulking and all discombobulated, but that is what Guido is all about and Day-Lewis captures it perfectly.

But among the female cast, my favorite has got to be Luisa, Guido’s former-film-star wife. Luisa gave up acting when she marries Guido, but she’s constantly abandoned by her husband. She laments about her pain in the musical sequence ‘My husband makes movies,’  it was sung beautifully by the sublime Marion Cotillard. I love the melody of the song, but especially the words and the way she sings them. No wonder she won an Oscar for her performance as French singer Edith Piaf in La vie en rose. In her IMDb trivia, it’s said that ‘if she had not been an actress, she would have liked to become a singer’ No doubt she would have a flourishing career in that as well. Cotillard is also the only cast member who has two musical numbers in the movie, Take it all is much more spirited and wildly sensuous but still kind of sad when you listen to the lyrics.

I love these two songs much more than the robust Cinema Italiano, performed with radiance and vigor by Kate Hudson. It’s obviously the more marketable as it’s used in the trailer. It’s enjoyable but just like the movie, it’s highly superficial. I think I like Luisa’s songs better because they’re much more poignant and heart-rending. The other memorable numbers are Penelope Cruz’s sexually-charged performing the ironically-named “A Call from the Vatican,” and the sentimental Unusual Way by Nicole Kidman.

Overall, I enjoyed it and the songs are quite memorable. For sure I won’t buy the dvd, but I just might order the soundtrack!

2.5 out of 5 reels

What do you think of NINE?

31 thoughts on “DVD Review: Nine

  1. Agreed. This was the movie I was looking foward to the most last year. While Cruz probably deserved her Oscar nom, she shouldn’t have gotten it over Cotillard. It if wasn’t for Cotillard and her two songs, this movie would’ve been a MAJOR bust. Even DDL seemed to be a bit miscast. I could watch the “Take it All” clip all day though. So much heart poured into it.

    1. Glad you said that, Red. Yes, the dancing sequence was impressive, but I thought Cruz’s performance was just ok, not spectacular. I was much more taken by Cottilard’s performance and her emotional renditions of the musical sequences. My fave of the two is actually the first one she did.

      As for DDL, I thought he’s still great in the part. Did you know Javier Bardem was originally cast as Guido? He’d be performing with real life girlfriend Cruz again.

      1. DDL was alright, but he just wasn’t charming enough for the role. Yeah, Bardem was first cast for the role, and then Downey Jr. was in negotiations to do it there for a while. I think RDJ would’ve knocked it out of the part, as he easily compares to the originally Guido.

        1. Oooh yes, RDJ would be killer. I admire DDL but Robert just oozes so much charisma even in pathos. I remember seeing him in Less Than Zero when he’s just a complete, utter wreck of a human being, but there is still just something about him that’s so irresistible. That guys is destined to be a movie star!

  2. Same here. Enjoyed it, but was rather disappointed. But hey, I am always up for DDL looking like the handsome man he is. Plus I looooove Cotillard, and I thought that Penelope Cruz’s number was the showstopper.

    1. I’m not exactly disappointed by the movie, it just didn’t blow me away. Yeah, Daniel is a handsome chap isn’t he? And sooo stylish as Guido. Cruz’s number might’ve been a showstopper, but it didn’t quite leave a lasting impression as Cottilard’s… her two songs made me cry!

  3. Pingback: DVD Review: Nine « FlixChatter | Penélope Cruz

  4. Shucks. Umm, what can I say I really liked this and I don’t trust a site like RT where something like “The Hangover” is lauded as one of the best films of the year (but I digress).

    I think Nine is a wild and misunderstood child. Guido is literally making the movie as we watch it and Marshall’s risk is that he’s deliberately making it as as stylistic as possible, I suppose it’s a risk that didn’t pay off but I think in years to come it’ll be more respected and enjoyed (that overture is just awesome to behold). Glad you like Luisa Contini, though. Marion was just excellent.

    PS (DDL has two numbers too)

    1. Sorry Andrew… I guess I should say I quite like this, for the parts I mentioned, I just don’t love it. I forgot to mention in my review that it’s as if the movie is trying to mimic Guido’s creative block or something, as the plot just slugs along.

      I guess it remains to be seen how this movie will be remembered, probably not as much as Fellini’s version.

      Oh right, DDL did have two numbers, I meant to say ‘… the only female cast members…,’ thanks for the correction. Marion’s moved to my top five fave actresses now, but hasn’t beat Blanchett yet 🙂

    2. I get that Marshall was trying to be sylistic, but he gave up too much in doing so. I won’t even begin to act like I’m an expert on musicals (or movies for that matter), but with this type of movie the songs are supposed to push the story and be important to what the director is trying to say. Besides Luisa’s two numbers, Fergie’s, and MAYBE DDL’s, all the songs could very easily be taken out and you wouldn’t be able to tell a difference. Luisa’s have heart, depth, and help push the story being told. I really wanted to like this movie. I don’t hate it per say, but was severely let down by the potential of what it could have been.

      Just my two cents.

      1. “… let down by the potential of what it could have been” Well-put Red, given the talents involved, it could’ve been much better executed.

        1. I would still put the fault on Marshall. He’s the storyteller here, and if the advancement of the plot is hindered as much as it was in this film, it’s on him.

          1. I have to say I’m enjoying this back and forth, Red. I have to go see it soon to watch it with new eyes. I think I may finally do an actual review, but it’s interesting because you’re not the first persons that feels the songs are incidental…which I think is the complete opposite. I actually wish there were MORE songs. Obviously, though, Marshall doesn’t think he’s hindering the movie.

            I’m curious as to the divide with this film’s lovers and non-lovers.

            1. Looking forward to reading your review on this, Andrew. Seems like Marshall’s movies can be quite polarizing. I think there’s as many people who hated ‘Chicago’ as those who adore it (including the Academy). I don’t even remember much from that movie, so at least there are some memorable things I got from NINE.

  5. Although I really love musicals as a genre, I must admit that most of them have disappointed me. Beside MOULIN ROUGE, I can’t remember any other of the new musicals, which left a good impression on me. And I find Rob Marshall a director who can make a visually stunning movie, but his films are always like a commercial for some make-up – all beautiful, shinny and gorgeous, but pretty much empty and heartless (CHICAGO, GEISHA).
    I watched NINE only to see Judi Dench 🙂 and Fergie of course.

    1. Yes, Moulin Rouge was enthralling, and the ‘magic’ isn’t worn down even with repeated viewings. I’m not even a Nicole Kidman fan in general but both she and Ewan put so much heart and soul into this and the music ‘enhance’ the story, not distract from it or become repetitive. I only teared up during the Luisa’s songs in NINE, but by the ending of MR I was a basket case!

  6. It seemed to get a lot of bad reviews when it first came out. But Daniel Day-Lewis is one of, if not, the best actor working in Hollywood today so I’m interested to see his performance.

    1. Yes, DDL is still worth seeing, and so is some of the actresses (especially Cottilard), I just wish as a whole it had made more of an impact.

  7. I’ve yet to see this, but it sounds like it would have been much better with just Day-Lewis and Cotillard, minus all the other “big names”. If it is as visually pleasing as Moulin Rouge and contains some stand-out scenes, I think I will still rent it on DVD 🙂 Nicely reviewed!

    1. The visuals and the breathtaking vista of the Italian Riviera is gorgeous, Roisin, but ‘looks’ alone just doesn’t cut it.

  8. “RT says: It has a game, great-looking cast, led by the always worthwhile Daniel Day-Lewis, but Rob Marshall’s Nine is chaotic and curiously distant. I concur.”

    I concur with your concurring.

    I also am a fan of Cotillard’s performance, she is highly underrated as an actress lately.

    The highlight for me though was “Be Italian” by Fergie.

    1. Oh yeah, Be Italian is such a fiery number, too. Fergie has such a powerful voice that suits the song perfectly, but I think I’m always for a bit of melancholy… as I’m a bit conventional in my taste of music. I mean, I listen to Monica Mancini and Sarah Brightman a lot in my iPod 🙂

      1. Yes, yes! Haha, I understand why you would like that more then. I’m much more showy with my taste in music, U2, Lady Gaga, Guns N’ Roses, so the fierce thing is what I dug for sure.

        1. Believe it or not, I used to be a huge GNR fan in high school, my BFF had a huge Axl Rose poster in her bedroom, too 🙂 But I’ve mellowed out a lot obviously… he..he..

  9. One of the most anticipated films of the year, and with good reason. Daniel Day Lewis plays an Italian film director staring at middle age and unable to complete his new film. Faced with age and a marriage (to Cotillard) that’s slipping away from him, DDL is losing his artistic muse. He can’t fully commit to his film or his wife, and the various women in his past and present that once acted to fuel his creativity are now bearing down on him even as they slip away.

    1. I was anticipating this a lot, but no, it didn’t really live up to my expectation as I said in my review. It sounds so promising and you sum it out nicely, but the end result didn’t quite deliver…

  10. I agree with your review………..it looked fabulous but I was irrirated by Lewis’ character who was rather self centred and annoying. Marion Cotillard was the star of the show for me, she looked and sounded sublime when delivering her song. Overall the film was stylish but rather haphazard and the star studded cast was covering over some pretty big cracks. That said it was still a good movie but I personally would not buy it and would have definitley shunned this at the cinema. Shame really. By the way any review that uses the word discombobulated is a friend of mine

    1. Hi TeeJ, welcome to FC! Yeah I thought Guido was just ungrateful. I mean he’s got such a supportive wife who looks like Marion Cotillard, and still he’s off with a tramp. This is really a case of style over substance, it’s got lots of good parts that didn’t make up a cohesive whole. Still, I didn’t regret seeing it and I do wish Marion would just sing in every film she’s in. Don’t you agree?

      Glad to hear someone else love the word ‘discombobulated’ 😀

  11. Pingback: [Last 2014] Weekend Roundup + Mini Reviews of The Trip To Italy, The Immigrant, Exodus: Gods & Kings and Into the Woods |

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