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.
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
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
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
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.