Nine * 1/2

Genre: Musical

Director:  Rob Marshall

Writers: Michael Tolkin and Anthony Mingella

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, Fergie

Running Length: 115 minutes

Synopsis: Set in Italy in the 60s, Nine details a week (give or take) in the life of famous Italian film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) who is about to embark on his ninth film project, titled Italia. There is a slight problem – Guido is actually suffering from writer’s block, and despite the production being in place and almost ready to go, not a single line has been written for the screenplay. As he awaits the arrival of his muse, Claudia (Nicole Kidman), who has agreed to appear in Italia, Guido tries to escape the paparazzi and checks into a spa-hotel. Unfortunately, a bevy of women and problems follow – his mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz) shows up, as does his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard). His marriage with Luisa is on the rocks due to Guido’s philandering, but Guido is desperate to try and keep the relationship alive. Also present is his friend and costume designer Lilli (Judi Dench), who tries to offer her advice to little avail, and American journalist Stephanie (Kate Hudson) who expresses her interest in Guido. Guido also has flashbacks to his childhood, where he meets his mother (Sophia Loren) and observes the erotic dance of Saraghina (Fergie), a prostitute. As the days wear on it soon becomes apparent that Guido is headed towards a breakdown and that the production of Italia may grind to a halt.

Review: It may be Rob Marshall’s second musical-to-movie adaptation (the first being the Academy Award-winning Chicago), but Nine is testament to the phrase “lightning doesn’t strike twice”. Perhaps it’s because Nine the musical is itself adapted from Federico Fellini’s 8½, and like the game of “Telephone”, too much was lost the third time round.

And whilst all the ten songs featured in Nine are big production numbers, the singing is barely passable for most and some of the numbers lean a little too much towards burlesque, actually coming across as being quite sleazy. The songs are not memorable either, and apart from Fergie’s strong performance on “Be Italian” and the totally anachronistic but quite enjoyable performance from Kate Hudson in “Cinema Italiano”, the rest of the songs simply meld into one large burlesque blur.

It doesn’t help that Daniel Day-Lewis is slightly miscast for this role, and despite his totally decent acting, Guido is a very unlikeable protagonist that not many audiences will be able to root for. Coupled with the fact that the women save one – Marion Cotillard has the only meaty female role and does a good job in portraying Guido’s long suffering wife – are one-dimensional walk on roles, seemingly only there to up the glam and sexiness factors, the whole film is thus comprised of famous faces with barely passable singing voices playing unengaging characters. That is as far from a winning formula as it could possibly be, and the result is clear. Watching Nine is akin to watching paint dry – a terribly soporific experience, and even the song and dance numbers only help to alleviate the tedium momentarily.

Rating:  * ½ (out of four stars)

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