- Rated PG-13
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All photos © The Weinstein Co.
Reviewed by David Medsker
ine” might have been something special if we hadn’t seen it already. Director Rob Marshall reuses pretty much every staging technique he used in “Chicago,” with naturally less exciting results since he’s lost the element of surprise. It’s perfectly competent, well sung and performed, but it’s also rather passionless. And who would have thought that Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard and Penelope Cruz, Oscar winners all, would be upstaged by Kate Hudson?
The year is 1965, and Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), a beloved Italian film director whose last two movies were flops, cannot come up with an idea for his newest movie. While the production is getting ramped up to start shooting in ten days, Guido ducks out of a press conference and holes up in a seaside spa. He searches for inspiration in his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard), his mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz), his actress muse Claudia (Nicole Kidman), the memories of his mother (Sophia Loren), his longtime costume designer Lilli (Judi Dench) and even from the Catholic Church, but is not having any luck. Soon it’s not just Guido’s movie that is in shambles but Guido himself, as his personal life falls apart.
There really isn’t much story here; Guido loves many women, but doesn’t like himself very much. Song, dance, song, dance, roll credits. That Marshall is able to take so little content and spin a movie out of it is a pretty neat magic trick, but there is no mistaking that you’re watching an illusion. It’s an impossible movie to get lost in, because the characters aren’t engaging enough to root for, or even against. Marshall clearly has it bad for Penelope Cruz, though: he shoots her body during her solo “A Call from the Vatican” with a zeal that borders on fetishistic. When that song is over, you’ll feel as if you saw Cruz naked. And not even Playboy naked, but Hustler naked.
It all hinges on the Guido character. As they peel off the layers of his personality, we get lots of what but no why. It’s bad enough that he’s cheating on his lovely, long-suffering wife – Cotillard’s number “Take It All” is the movie’s most emotional moment – but then a late reveal about Guido confirms that he’s even more of a scoundrel than we thought he was. Marshall is also guilty of using an obscene amount of hairography in the dance numbers, with bushels of unruly hair (save Cotillard and Dench, who were spared the indignity) swinging hither and yon. The one number where everything comes together is the swingin’ “Cinema Italiano,” where Vogue reporter Stephanie (Kate Hudson) morphs into the sexiest Fembot ever. Don’t be surprised if the Weinstein Company markets this as the next “Jai Ho.”
It’s surprising that Marshall and Weinstein would invest so much time and effort into something like “Nine,” especially considering Weinstein’s cash flow problems. The subject matter simply lacks the sizzle to make the movie a crossover hit along the lines of “Chicago,” and not even the most beautiful actresses in the world can change that. If you absolutely must see a musical this holiday season, go see “The Princess and the Frog.”