A quick review of Nine in nine bullet points.
This is definitely not a full critique of the film, far from it; but I’ll try to give the gist ;)
1) The cast: It should be forbidden for common mortals to be that beautiful! Nine managed to get some of the most handsome actors of their generation: Daniel Day-Lewis, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard and Kate Hudson; and of course the legendary Sophia Loren. All of them have perfect bodies… And all of them can dance!
2) The accents: the film is in English, but the characters are supposed to be Italian and some French. Daniel Day-Lewis’ Italian accent was OK, but it breaks my heart to say that Judi Dench was a terrible Parisian! Her French accent was absolutely not convincing and I wished they would have allowed her to speak proper English (or would have casted a French native as they did with Marion Cotillard who incidentally happens to speak English quite well).
3) The script: I did not like some of the lyrics but overall, there was a clear storyline which is not that intricate but makes for a useful thread to attach the choreographed musical sections around it. The “Maestro”, an acclaimed Italian filmmaker whose last films have flopped is attempting a final redemption by creating a new masterpiece named “Italia”. Instead of achieving his goal, he ends up ruining his entire life as a man, and by extension a filmmaker. Daniel Day-Lewis gives an excellent performance of this lost man whose hunger for women is insatiable to the extent of selfishness; he simply bites them, chews them, and spits them out when they’re all empty. Finally, after crushing and draining those who offered all their love and life to him, he ends up all alone and empty too.
4) Carla: Nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role and an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Penélope Cruz has been honored by her peers with these two nominations. I am not really a fan of Cruz in Hollywood, I prefer her in her native Spanish movies. But she did deserve every recognition she got for Nine. Her very first appearance in her choreographed musical bit is really impressive. She manages to give a physically highly demanding performance while projecting genuine emotions through her acting/dancing and with the way she controlled her voice while singing. Truly brilliant.
5) Luisa: Marion Cotillard is definitely my second favorite female in the cast. She delivered a beautiful and touching performance and both her musical bits were outstanding. The first one, a docile wife wiping herself out for her husband, supportive and elegant at the same time was delivered in very low, respectable tone, and most of the emotions were projected in her eyes which was truly poignant. The second bit is when she revolts against all the humiliation she finally refuses to endure and gives a Cabaret performance filled with passion and drama. I was already in awe of her performance in La Môme, and she did not disappoint this time either. (I’m really loving what French actresses are achieving in Hollywood).
6) Lilli: Judi Dench needs no introduction, and her performances are always stunning, as was this one. She did it in a very subtle, natural way and that is why she is one of the great performers of her generation on screen today. I did mention her French accent was not believable though but this only transpired in her musical bit which was based on her character’s history, centered on the very Parisian Folies Bergères.
7) Mamma: Sophia Loren did not get the opportunity to showcase her acting abilities at all; her screen time was very limited and unfortunately, her presence was very stiff and disappointing from a legend of her stature. I think she was chosen as a representation of the prominent Italian women (blend of femininity and motherhood) which we’re used to from cult filmmakers in Italy. She is after all the ultimate Italian woman in our collective subconscious. However the overall outcome was very poor in my humble opinion.
8) Claudia, Stephanie & Saraghina: Meg Ryan, sorry I mean Nicole Kidman* and Kate Hudson gave excellent performances in their musical bits. The non-musical parts were fine; Kidman and Hudson didn’t get a lot of screen time anyway. Hudson’s dancing is noteworthy and I liked the hidden messages in her choreography based on the Hollywoodization of artists, turning them into manufactured stereotypes of “beauty”, “success”, “celebrity”, “glittery” and presenting filmmakers (and I guess, by extension, other artists) in this artificial, plastic image that we see in fashion magazines. As for Fergie, it seems she gained a lot of weight for the part of the prostitute who initiates young boys (this character seems to be recurrent in classic Italian films). Her acting was average but of course, she sang brilliantly; I was expecting more from her choreography though but that is probably not something she was responsible for so I cannot really judge her on that. Her character kind of reminded me of the tobacconist in Fellini’s Amarcord probably because of her big bust always in the way!
* Come on, it is becoming really creepy how much Nicole Kidman is starting to look like Meg Ryan’s clone! And in Nine, she kind of looked like a wax statue; but still, can’t deny that she looked beautiful (in a plastic kind of way).
9) Overall: The film was quite entertaining; a little like Chicago meets Evita with the blend of biography and Broadway show. In terms of art direction, I still think Moulin Rouge was the best. I'm kind of happy musicals are becoming increasingly more popular in mainstream filmmaking. I love the theater, and anything drama-like is definitely of value to me. Plus, it's great to see our new millennium's actors finally focusing on multiple skills; not only acting but also singing and dancing. Going back to roots of what made cinema wildly imaginative and an escape of everyday's boring routine :)