Nine (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for sexual content and smoking.
Length: 118 minutes
Grade: CC-B+C=C
Budget: $80 million
Box Office: $ million (20 U.S., 34 Intl., 4 DVD)

Written by: Michael Tolkin (Changing Lanes, Deep Impact, Deep Cover, and Gleaming the Cube) and Anthony Minghella (Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain, and The English Patient), based on the musical by Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston, itself based on the Italian musical by Mario Fratti
Directed by: Rob Marshall (Memoirs of a Geisha and Chicago)
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Marion Cotillard, and Penelope Cruz.
With: Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman and Stacy Ferguson (Fergie from the Black-Eyed Peas)

In this adaptation of Fellini’s 8½, an Italian movie director tries valiantly to come up with a movie he’s already supposed to be filming. In the process, we are taken on a musical tour of his life as it has been influenced by a variety of women.

Entertainment Value: C
On the one hand, there are some really excellent elements of this film, particularly several of the musical sequences, performed by some of today’s biggest female stars. On the other hand, none of it hangs together very well, and it winds up seeming mostly like a chance for the makers of Chicago see if lightning will strike again when they string a bunch of semi-lurid musical numbers together. It did not. Nevertheless, Marion Cotillard is brilliant. Everyone else is pretty good. The story about how casting occurred is pretty fascinating, if you’re interested. That was actually more interesting than the movie itself.

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity C-, Violence B, Language B
The real content in this movie is smoking (lots) and ongoing constant sexuality. There’s no actual nudity, but there are several burlesque or strip-tease scenes and sexy women walking around in very little clothing. I’d say R-15, especially not for teenage boys. But then again, this may finally be a musical they would watch…for all the wrong reasons.

Significant Content: B+
Men are heavily influenced by women. The ego-maniac will always see women as objects to be used or manipulated as he sees fit. Being a great director basically means never growing up, at least with respect to imagination. It may be possible for this man to mature without losing his childlike creativity and ability to entertain others, but it probably will not come easily. Marriage means much more than you think and integrates your entire life because only your wife can know all the things about you no one else does.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
The big problem with this movie is that it has so much potential in the first few minutes, all of which is squandered either immediately or over time. The opening commentary about how making a movie is the gradual killing of a dream but every once in awhile something worthwhile survives to touch the audience was brilliant. And since I didn’t know the Broadway form here, I was not sure what the ladies in the opening number might represent. In fact, I hoped they would all be various scripts or movies trying to seduce the director into making them, with some of his former movies (the older women) looking on and hoping to recapture his attention and devotion as they once had. With that metaphor in mind, I was excited to see where it would go, but it turned out these were merely all the real women in this Italian’s life. Since Fellini was the director of the original source material, we can only assume Guido is meant to represent him or some semblance of his Italianism in a brilliant surface-over-substance director. The irony, therefore, is that this movie about brilliant filmmaking is not itself an example of brilliant filmmaking.

Discussion Questions:
~To what degree do you think that Italian men are different from other men with regards to women?
~Are artists inherently immature?
~How is Guido’s handling of the press in this movie similar to his treatment of the women in his life?
~Are directors naturally egomaniacs? Do they need to be?
~In what ways is a film like a mistress or lover? What level of passionate commitment to a project does a director need to make it succeed?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Penelope Cruz’s burlesque.
~Fergie’s “Be Italian”
~Kate Hudson’s “Cinema Italiano”
~Marion Cotillard’s strip tease
~Telling the new actress the same line he used on his wife.
~Guido’s wife telling him that he’s a man who is 100% appetite, and if he stops being greedy, he’d die.

Overall Grade: C
An Italian musical burlesque that could have been much more interesting than it really was, in spite of the star-studded cast.

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