Musicals seemed to find a resurgence in theaters a few years back, what with Moulin Rouge and Chicago lighting up theaters as well as the Oscars. Things died down again until Chicago director Rob Marshall returned with Nine, a musical adapted from the broadway play of a novel of the same name…or something convoluted like that. Regardless of its origins, the film ended up being a rather big disappointment for all involved as the $80 million film grossed less than a fourth of that domestically and barely over $50 million when worldwide receipts are taken into account. Despite poor critical reception mixed with the lackluster ticket sales, the film still earned itself four Oscar nominations although it ultimately won nothing.
Nine is a musical following a film director named Guido Contini, who is in his middle age. He is trying to complete his next film. His main problem is that he has too many women in his life. Luisa, his wife, Carla his sexy mistress, and Claudia, his muse and protege. A vibrant and provocative musical filled with love, lust, passion, and glamour. With its incredible all-star cast, amazing performances and stunning visuals, this razzle-dazzle extravaganza will make you long to BE ITALIAN.
After watching the film I couldn’t understand what the hell it was called Nine for…and only after I read up on the film online did I actually find out why. While there were vague clues in the film as to why it was named as such, they were only passing references—nothing specific. Apparently there were a lot more obvious reasons in the actual play, as well as a song called “Nine” that was somehow brilliantly cut from the film. How do you make a film based off of a broadway musical that has a title song…and not include it in the film adaptation? I realize things need to be cut, trimmed, re-oriented, etc…but c’mon. That’s a pretty major omission in my book.
That glaring point of stupidity aside, the film as a whole just didn’t work for me either. It was not only a rather depressing tale, but also one that seemed rather aimless at times. This guy talked to his mother’s ghost and has to juggle relationships with six other women and he is tormented by things he experienced as a child. It’s a really strange setup for a film, as none of the characters are immediately likeable and you are, in fact, turned off by the majority of them. Any enjoyment I would’ve gotten out of this film was immediately hindered by Daniel Dae Lewis anyway, as I really don’t like him—nothing personal, but I genuinely can’t stand the way he acts in anything I’ve ever seen him in. Some call it brilliant, but I just find it nerve-grating.
Like a lot of films filled with a ton of stars (*cough*Valentine’s Day*cough*), Nine also suffers from too large of a cast. The women in the film all seem underdeveloped and use the films PG-13 rating to the fullest extent with an ever-expanding assortment of lingerie to parade around in. It’s these elements that made the film feel ultimately hollow to me—like it was trying to impress me more with its visuals and grandiose song and dance numbers than it was with any kind of actual plot. As is the case with a lot of musicals (that I’ve observed, anyway) the actual plot can be boiled down into about a paragraphs worth of actual story development. This is fine when the songs are entertaining and unforgettable…but that’s not the case with this film. Not the case at all.
I don’t inherently dislike musicals…I just don’t ever really find them really worthy of my attention (especially the more recent crop…although considering this film and Mamma Mia were the last ones I viewed, that might be why). There are those that I enjoy on occasion (I did enjoy Sweeney Todd) so it’s not that I can’t enjoy them…it’s just sad that most of the modern ones attempt to wow you visually rather than mentally. I need a little bit more meat with my pomp and this was sadly just skin and bones for the most part. Skip It.
Sony releases Nine to both Blu-ray and DVD, although for this review I’ll be going over the DVD release only. It arrives in a standard amaray style DVD case without any fancy inserts or anything; it has a fair share of extras although it’s certainly nothing that blows you away in terms of complexity or completeness. Video for this film looks clean and clear and what you’d expect from a modern production; the films time period is represented quite spectacularly here and the songs are replicated beautifully with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Although as with any film that uses its visual attributes to envelope the viewer, you’ll be better off with the Blu-ray release if you want to really experience it properly.
Commentary with Director Rob Marshall and Producer John DeLuca
7 Featurettes (42:58)
3 Music Videos
The commentary is a nice touch, but it oddly focuses more on the original productions of Nine rather than the film itself. I mean there is of course the technical discussion of how elements were set up, but there’s also a lot of discussion about what it took to bring this film to the screen. It’s a solid track and decidedly less tedious than the film itself. The featurettes are pretty fluffy vignettes for the most part (a lot only last 2-4 minutes). Everything from actor interviews to rehearsal footage is seen here and most importantly you get an idea of just how large a production this film truly was—made all the more disappointing by how unenjoyable the final result was.
Overall a disc worth a Rental, as the extras are inherently more entertaining than the film as they delve into all the glitz and glamour of the film while disposing of the mediocre storyline.
Nine is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.