- Nine stars Sophia Loren, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Marion Cotillard, Fergie and Daniel Day-Lewis. That’s about as many grand names as you can fit on a movie poster. (With exception of the upcoming Valentine’s Day, maybe.) And that exactly is its curse, too. Packed with so much fame and talent, it has to be amazing. Otherwise it will just be “hmm, well, bit disapointing, don’t you think?” The missed chance here? Well, let me just say it wasn’t amazing.
- Despite the high density of talent, charisma and glamour on the screen, this film manages to be exceptionally bland. And “bland” is by no means a lazy writer’s comment. I’ve tried for the last two hours to come up with an adjective that describes the experience. Nine is definitely not amazing, great, cool, good, decent. But the thing is, it’s so…well, bland, that I can’t even call it bad. It’s just sort of neutral. Like the colours of the iconic Italy it’s trying to bring to life (not very successfully so).
- It suffers from a distinct lack of plot. I know, I know – that’s the point. The Maestro doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing when trying to make his new film. But we would also get that without the film itself demonstrating that it doesn’t have a clue as to what it is doing either.
- In a way following on from 3., the film is of course based on a musical. And musicals tend to get away with being a bit light on the storyline side, mainly because they’ve got all that singing and dancing and being glamorous and stuff. But there are also things that musicals aren’t very good at, one of them being the subtler notes and the more intimate acting. When a musical gets transformed into film, you’d kind of expect them to make use of the chances offered by the medium (as Chicago and Phantom , for example, have done rather impressively.) Nine just sort or randomly puts people into costumes and makes them burst out into song right in the middle of what otherwise could have been nicely done non-musical scenes.
- The characters are exceptionally lifeless. Except for the Maestro (Day-Lewis) maybe, but even in his case you get bored of all the eccentricity and torturedness after the first hour. And the women are basically just assorted puppets:
- The loving, faithful, silently suffering little wife (Cotillard) loving and suffering so faithfully and silently that it just makes you wanna be sick.
- The hyper-sexy, naive mistress (Cruz) being so over-the-top pouty and clingy that she’s almost comical – sadly without being the least bit funny.
- The whore (Fergie) who was apparently the Maestro’s first temptation (and brings us the only really impressive musical number) but somehow remains shockingly unattractive in all her aggressive sexuality and completely loses out on the temptation bit.
- The muse (Kidman) who’s sort of elusive in a trademark Kidman-esque way, but the film fails to turn that elusiveness into her character’s significance – which means she’s basically just irrelevant.
- The maternal best friend (Dench) who’s mainly babbling good advice in a maternal best friend sort of style and therefore loses most of the impact she could have had.
- The late mother, whose absence apparently accounts for the Maestro’s tortured soul and screwed-up love life – but since the film somehow forgets to tell us how and why, she also becomes pretty much irrelevant.
- And the slutty fashion journalist who’s entirely irrelevant from the start and probably serves the sole purpose of suggesting that fashion journalists generally flash their hold-ups at/hand their hotel keys over to anyone remotely famous.
(They all look hot in their song and dance outfits though.)
- Even though being some of Hollywood’s most worshiped beauties, the women appear flawed. Penelope is a bit wrinkly, Kate looks like her mum, and Fergie’s got some horrendously bad skin and seems to be missing a neck. Now don’t get this wrong. I’m all for real women and a revival of un-Photoshopped magazine covers and stuff. But this is a musical, and in musicals people just have to be shiny and beautiful and perfect and a bit unreal. That’s just, ya know, unwritten musical law. Musicals just aren’t the place for harsh reality and the scolding finger of ethics.
- The singing ranges between moderate and awful. Even Fergie’s song (Be Italian), although choreographed and shot beautifully, occasionally wanders along the edge of borderline painful.
- Kate Hudson kind of looks like Goldie Hawn. Which is kind of distracting. (Okay, so I was short of one reason for my list.)
- And then there’s Sophia Loren. Which, in principle, is tremendous, amazing, wonderful. Except that she’s somehow not really there. And I don’t mean because she’s playing the Maestro’s late mother. It just seems as if they weren’t really sure what to do with her in the film, so she just makes a few random appearances. It’s kind of like they cut out a photo of Sophia Loren and stuck it onto some of the scenes. Which is not only a total waste of Sophia Loren, but also quite a big disappointment when you’ve been looking forward to seeing her in a film for months.
Verdict: Does make you wanna sing and dance though. In your underwear.