Setting a possible record for Oscar-bait per cubic inch, Nine seems destined to appeal to every part of the Academy, although It’s true that it would be a better film if it were called Six and if there were a couple fewer of the women tormenting Daniel-Day Lewis’ director Guido Contini. And we could all sleep better without the Kate Hudson number, but this musical extravaganza has enough good music and bright pictures to succeed as a night’s entertainment.
But Nine is attention-deficit musical making. The musical routines are chopped up and created by editing rather than performance; this shall become obvious in the opening number, with Day-Lewis running to and from each woman of his memory like a Ms. America pageant on acid. Of course, once you see the ultra-sexy number with Penelope Cruz, you really won’t care.
How we have come to a film about Italians in which only Sophia Loren, playing Contini’s mother, is actually Italian is an interesting predicament. Any European appears to fit the Weinstein Company’s bill. Day-Lewis is strictly imitative here, going for Marcello Mastrioanni. “Nine” film could turn the French actress Marion Cotillard into a true star in the United States and aside from the aforementioned Cruz introduction, she owns the two best musical numbers.
Eye candy is the strength of director Rob Marshall (Chicago). The musical numbers take place on a stage saturated in spectacular reds, blues, whites, as the music calls for. The art direction and cinematography stand out.
Nine is in theory based on the Fellini classic 8 ½. An Italian film director with a creative block heads for a spa to write a movie that’s already in production. There he contemplates the meaning of the women in his life. The story turns that film into a moralistic fable about the virtue of true love. That allows it to develop the melodrama of a musical, but leaves it looking a lot showier, feeling a little cheaper, and leaving you generally satisfied and occasionally happy.