I'd like to start off by saying I'm not a song-and-dance kind of guy, though I did love 'The Sound of Music' and 'Grease' when I was growing up. Modern musicals, like 'Chicago' and 'Moulin Rouge', even though they fared well critically and at the box office, weren't really my cup of tea. Surely the star-packed 'Nine' would be different, right?

One of the reasons I thought this movie would be the thinking-man's musical is the presence of Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role. Whenever Day-Lewis emerges from his non-acting cave to star in a role, usually it's a dazzler, and he's almost always nominated for something whenever he opens his mouth. It's obvious that he's stepping out of his comfort zone here, especially when he's traipsing around a movie set, swinging here, swinging there, and singing all the while. But there's something incredibly awkward about the whole affair.

I'd like to start off by saying I'm not a song-and-dance kind of guy, though I did love 'The Sound of Music' and 'Grease' when I was growing up. Modern musicals, like 'Chicago' and 'Moulin Rouge', even though they fared well critically and at the box office, weren't really my cup of tea. Surely the star-packed 'Nine' would be different, right?

One of the reasons I thought this movie would be the thinking-man's musical is the presence of Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role. Whenever Day-Lewis emerges from his non-acting cave to star in a role, usually it's a dazzler, and he's almost always nominated for something whenever he opens his mouth. It's obvious that he's stepping out of his comfort zone here, especially when he's traipsing around a movie set, swinging here, swinging there, and singing all the while. But there's something incredibly awkward about the whole affair.



'Nine' is based on the lavish 1982 Broadway show (which itself was adapted from Fellini's 1963 art film '8 1/2'), and it's sexed up and glammed up by director Rob Marshall's vision. Day-Lewis plays troubled Italian director Guido Contini, who is suffering from severe writer's block while creating his ninth film. He spends his days smoking fiendishly and lying to the press about his progress. Called 'Italia', Contini's film is supposed to encapsulate all things Italian. (In a case of unfortunate timing, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has recently come under fire for his philandering ways - Contini basically encapsulates all the stereotypes of his alleged behaviour.)

In his search for fresh ideas, Contini reflects upon the women in his life - and in some cases, "acts" upon them. This is where the main problem with the movie's message becomes painfully evident: in an attempt to make women seem like the strong force behind a man, Marshall makes it seem like women are nothing more than sexual toys, or meddling nymphs incapable of understanding a man's dilemmas. I wrote in my notes 'This is a teenage boys' dream', particularly after I'd seen the umpteenth set of breasts jiggling onscreen. Not that I mind that sort of thing, but high-brow this is not.

What makes matters worse is that all of these women are obsessed with Contini. We never really know why, though it could be because he's a prominent director and he has lots of power. But the truth is Day-Lewis' character seems hopelessly impotent, and we spend nearly two hours moping about with him. It's hard to believe that being surrounded by beautiful women could really be such a downer. There's his demure wife (Marion Cotillard) who abandoned her acting career for him, his deceased mother (Sophia Loren), his naive mistress (Penelope Cruz), his muse (Nicole Kidman), an American reporter (Kate Hudson), his hard-as-nails costumemaker (Judi Dench), and a beach Gypsy from his childhood (Fergie).



Each of the actresses gets her own musical number (Cotillard gets two, one of which is truly sleep-inducing) and for the most part, each goes on too long and has some of the worst lyrics ever uttered. The name 'Guido' is repeated a trillion times. It gets painful after a while. Obviously Fergie has the upper hand here, seeing as she can really sing, but the rest of the actresses stumble through the songs or try to overcompensate with some T and A. The musical numbers are also strangely disconnected, almost as if it were a set of burlesque acts.

The one redeeming factor of the movie is the costuming. The clothes are beautiful to look at - and I'm not just saying that because of the ample skin exposure. In fact, it may be a wasted opportunity on Marshall's part to not enlist a specific designer to showcase their wares, especially since the movie is set in 1960s Italy, which was, in a sense, Ground Zero for burgeoning fashion.

For a movie filled with the world's most beautiful actresses, this film is dour and depressing. Despite the beauty of the Italian scenery, we get pulled down into Contini's pit of despair and desperation. Not even a sandy, tambourine/dance number from a scantily-clad Fergie can pull us out of the funk. Such a waste of immense star power.

1.5 stars out of 4.
CATEGORIES Reviews