A Review: “Nine” 2009. Dir. Rob Marshall With Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Fergi, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren.

I had been waiting to see this film for years.  Ever since it was announced that Daniel Day-Lewis was to play the lead of Guido Coniti, the famed Italian director who was the bedrock of Italian cinema.  “Nine” is an accomplished Broadway play, and has been for years.  Raul Julia played the lead of Guido during its long run in the 1980s.  The basis of “Nine” is a musical adaptation of Fedreico Fellini’s masterpiece, as well as Italy’s landmark in world cinema, “8 1/2“.  Rob Marshall was the obvious choice to direct this film adaptation of the Broadway hit since his debut film “Chicago” was so well received by critics and audiences and garnished Marshall a Best Director nomination as well as the film winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards.  “Nine” isn’t as good of a film as “Chicago”, but I found it more – enjoyable.

“Nine” takes us to Guido, he’s ten days away from shooting his ninth film.  He’s Italy’s hottest and most prestigious director, thou his last two films were “flops”, his long time producer is promising an epic film about Italy entitled “Italia”.  A film so gigantic, a film so monumental it will change cinema forever.  It stars Guido’s longtime muse and international movie star Claudia Jessen (Nicole Kidman).  The problem?  Guido doesn’t have a script.  The film starts out beautifully, Guido is walking slowly inside an empty studio, the lighting is dark, his hair is unkempt and he is brilliantly smoking a cigarette.  He sits down in his directors chair and stares at the set in front of him, it’s a Colosseum where he’s about to shoot his “new” film.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido and the women that make up his life.

He sits, running his hands through his hair and trying with all his might to come up with, at least, the first page of the script.  Brooding music begins to play, he looks up towards the set, straining his eyes as Claudia (Kidman) walks from the darkness up to Guido, she bends down and gives him a kiss.  Many other women faceless women begin to walk around the stage.  Then comes Guido’s wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard), and she’s so very beautiful in her modest black dress, her hair is up.  She’s beautiful without having to try.

As Guido rushes up to meet his wife, and the other faceless women move beautifully choreographed all around him, Judi Dench emerges, smoking a cigarette and looking down at Guido with a smug and loving smile.  Guido’s mistress (Cruz) then appears scantily clad and rushes over to Guido as his wife walks away.  Kate Hudson then rushes out and begins to dance with Guido.  As Hudson, Kidman, Cruz and Cotillard walk in a slow and very sexy circle around Guido – his mother appears.  Guido rushes over and grabs the hands of the beautiful Sophia Loren, he kisses her on each cheek.  Guido becomes overwhelmed by all the women as they all kneel around him and rub his body, they then all stand up and pick Guido up.  They carry him away.

What really worked was the setting of the film, early 1960s Italy.  It allowed the film to be ultra stylized, allowing the fashion, the sets, the cars, everything be so vintage; so beautiful.  The costumes in the film were as flamboyant as some of the characters in the film.  Each character wore something specific to themselves, something unique that showed us a lot about the character, instead of being told about them.  Kate Hudon’s

Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard as Guido's wife, Luisa.

character was an American journalist for Vogue, and her fashion sense was that of the Jackie Kennedy era.  The way she wore her hair, the makeup she had applied all pointed to the signs that she is one very salacious American girl in love with Italy, and in love with Guido Coniti.  The way that Cotillard is always wearing something so modest, as to show us that she’s not a glamorous girl, she’s an average girl who was swept up in all the chic of being an Italian socialite.  Sophia Loren is so breathtakingly beautiful as Guido’s Mother who is passed away, and only shows up in flashbacks.  Kidman’s fashion is nothing less than pure Hollywood.  Her dresses and her hair is on par with the stars and styles of the time.  Cruz is always dressed in red, or some sort of sensual color – making her even more pleasing to the eye.

Daniel Day-Lewis delivers to perfection as he usually does, but this performance is different.  He’s performance is unique to the roles that he has previously taken on.  In “Gangs of New York” and “There Will Be Blood” Day-Lewis was filled with rage, he was exploding with violent energy and emotion, always spewing bile at everyone he spoke too.  He was a charging train that would stop at nothing, he would tear everything else down around him to be the last man standing.  Day-Lewis

Guido Contini fending off reporters while asking him about his new film.

shows us he weak side in Contini, he is vulnerable and he’s more subdued in his performance.  Guido is bursting at the seams as everyone is bugging him for a script he doesn’t have, a script that he can’t write.  With all this pressure he’s holding inside of him, Guido uses Cruz’s character to release it, but what really allows Guido to channel his inner rage are the two musical numbers he has.  It’s strangely odd and exciting to see Day-Lewis sing (with his Italian accent) and dance around the stage.  He never misses beat, and never skips a tune.  But how could he?  He’s Daniel Day-Lewis.  Day-Lewis was nominated for the Golden Globes Best Actor in Musical/Comedy but I don’t know if he’ll win.  The Screen Actors Guild ignored his performance and Oscar may as well.  Day-Lewis is too good in this film to be ignored since he gave one of the most dominant performances of the year second only to Colin Firth.

The rest of the cast is very good.  There’s five previous Oscar winners that star in the film, Day-Lewis, Kidman, Cruz, Dench and Cotillard.  Aside from Day-Lewis giving a pitch perfect delivery so does Cotillard and Dench.  Loren is exceptional as well as Hudson and Cruz.  Kidman’s performance wasn’t that impressive.  It felt as if she walked through the role, essentially playing herself.  Dench plays the costume designer of all of Guido’s films.  It’s as if she’s the surrogate mother for Guido, since his passed away.  Dench is so feisty and fresh in her role and is the solid rock that Guido can always depend on.

The lacking aspect of “Nine” wasn’t the fault of the stars or of Marshall.  The direction was perfect to the film, it didn’t seem to drag, nor did it feel like it was missing much.  The problem with the film were the musical numbers.  Even though every performer gave a good performance during their musical number and the musical numbers were well shot and choreographed, not missing a

Kate Hudson as Stephanie.

beat, but the songs weren’t as catchy as that of “Chicago”.  “Be Italian” performed by Fergie was the best actual song in the film, but the best musical number was that of Kate Hudson’s  “Cinema Italiano” is the only original song in the film, it will more than likely be nominated for an Academy Award.  Hudson gives this glittery go-go style performance during “Cinema Italiano” snapping her fingers and waving her arms in the air.  Hudson is so ravishing, so beautiful in the way she glides on the stage, the way she slides around, singing about the Italian cinema to Guido.

This remains to be one of my favorite films that I have seen this year, as well as one of the best films I have seen.  This film will defiantly make it’s spot in my top ten list, and Day-Lewis will in my acting list since he gave the second best performance of the year.  This is a remarkably stylized film that is getting a very bad rap from critics as well as audiences.  If this film would have been Marshall’s debut, this would be the film winning all the Oscars this year.

Review: 8 1/2 out of 10.

Top Ten Suppoting Performances of the Decade (Male) – Richard Gere, “Chicago”.

Number 10 – Richard Gere as Billy Flynn in “Chicago”.

The ruling on Gere’s performance in “Chicago” is that he was a lead.  I disagree, but the Screen Actor’s Guild didn’t when he was nominated for Best Actor in a Lead Role, nor did the Golden Globes when he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.  But, the Teen Choice Awards did nominate him for best movie “villain”…even though he wasn’t…  In any event, I seem to be in the minority on this, so I digress.  In Rob Marshall’s “Chicago”, the role of Billy Flynn was the role that held the film together, in a predominantly female cast – Billy Flynn, the smooth talking, suave and charismatic lawyer was the role for a talented actor like John Travolta, or Kevin Spacey – an actor who could not only act, but sing and dance as well, and both Spacey and Travolta had that talent and I’m sure they would have made a fine Billy Flynn.  Rob Marshall decided to go with an actor who hadn’t been in previous films where he sings and dances (although in Coppola’s “The Cotton Club” Gere does show some musical savvy).  Gere, to this point hadn’t had a whole lot of hits, “Autumn in New York”, “Runaway Bride”, “The Jackel” and Robert Altman’s “Dr. T and the Women” were all films he had done prior to 2002.  They were mostly forgettable films, it appear as if he played out his card in just starring in “chick flicks”.  But that year Gere came out with two stellar films, with two great performances, one in “Unfaithful“, and the second of course being “Chicago”.

Richard Gere as "Billy Flynn" in Rob Marshall's "Chicago".

Richard Gere magically pulled off the dance and singing numbers that were required by this George Clooney esq character.  Gere was perfect on the outside he had all the makings of Billy Flynn, a dashingly good-looking man, that oozes with wit and charm.  But what Gere lacked was the vocal ability to sing the three numbers in the film that he is apart of.  I remember first seeing the film in theaters seeing Gere gliding around in his first musical number singing in a campy Chicago accent.  But Gere did pull it off.  Then he pulled it off again, then again, and again.  Gere proved something in this film that he hadn’t prior, and very well may not in the future either (although I’m calling a dark horse nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the upcoming “Brooklyn’s Finest”).  He showed us he is an amazing talent, that he can act, sing and dance.

I tend to agree with Sean Penn that Golden Globes are meaningless, that they don’t hold much clout.  I agree to a certain point (although if I won one, I would thank my Mom, and cry for joy) but in certain cases, I do believe that they mean a lot, they sometimes get it right.  When Colin Farrell won for “In Bruges”, and the best picture going to “Babel” and when Richard Gere won his Globe for Best Actor (Musical/Drama) for “Chicago”.  I was just pleased that he was recognized, and I was pleased that the SAG recognized him that year too.  I am saying that Gere gave the best performance that year?  Absolutely not.  Daniel Day-Lewis gave the best performance that year in “Gangs of New York”, a close second would be a tie between Gere and Michael Caine for “The Quiet American” but the Academy didn’t even nominate Richard Gere, and completely ignored him.  He must have had the Mickey Rourke syndrome of having burnt, no wait, blown up his bridges by being a tough star to deal with when he was younger.  But of course the Academy was being political and making a statement with Awarding it’s Best Actor, to Adrien Brody for Roman Polanski’s holocaust film, “The Pianist”.

Richard Gere with fellow winner Renee Zellwiger at the 2002 Golden Globes.

Gere’s outstanding performance in “Chicago” launched him back into the A list where he made “The Hoax” which in an incredibly underrated film where he gained weight and wore a prosthetic nose about a wannabe writer who sold his BS story to publishing companies about his character, Clifford Irving, was set to help Howard Hughes write his memoirs.  He also stared in “I’m Not There” playing the Billy the Kid persona of Bob Dylan.  I am very excited about Gere’s upcoming “Brooklyn’s Finest” where in the restricted promo trailer shows Gere waking up to his alarm clock and sitting up in bed – quick cut to Gere at his kitchen table in front of a bowl of cereal where he sits, isolated, and reaches and puts the barrel of his service revolver into his mouth.  My only fear is Gere peaked with “Chicago”, but I am hoping that his best is still to come.