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Not a ‘Nine:’ Marshall’s new musical film adaptation disappoints

Adriana Pratt | Thursday, January 14, 2010

Too many stars, too little plot. “Nine,” a musical film directed by Rob Marshall, hit theatres Christmas day, luring audiences with passionate songs, beautiful women, and fantastic costumes and scenery. One would think all these components would add up to an enchanting tale, but instead “Nine” proved that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
The film detailing the life of an Italian movie director is nominated for five Golden Globes, including Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Best Actress (Marion Cotillard), but notably lacks a Best Picture nomination, for good reason.  Day-Lewis, Cotillard and the slew of other noticeably brilliant actors (including Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren) performed at their peak but were given an exhaustingly long storyline that’s pace only picked up when the singing and dancing began and crashed once the songs ended.
Adapted from Arthur Kopit, Mario Fratti and Maury Yeston’s musical “Nine,” which was in turn adapted from Federico Fellini’s film “8 ½,” the film follows the life of Guido Contini (Day-Lewis) and the trials he faces while trying to write a new film amidst temptations from women both past and present.

In “Nine,” Contini, who wed one of his beautiful leading ladies, Luisa del Forno (Cotillard), suffered from a severe case of the wandering mind.  His woman on the side, the sultry and seductive Carla (Penelope Cruz) clung to Contini with all her might, attempting suicide when she thought their trysts were ending for good.  Stephanie (Kate Hudson), an American film critic for Vogue Magazine, attempted to bed Contini. Claudia (Nicole Kidman), another leading lady of Contini’s films, professed her love to him.  No one was immune from the lure of the successful womanizing director.
Two of the most enticing performances of the film came from Kate Hudson and Fergie. Hudson’s song “Cinema Italiano” was Yeston’s only new addition to the musical’s song list and is in the running for a “Best Song” Golden Globe.  Fergie’s role as the Italian prostitute Saraghina was both visually and vocally shocking.  She gained 17 pounds for the role, which seemed to enrich the density of her voice, and busted out an enchanting and powerful performance of the movie’s richest song “Be Italian.”
Hudson surprised audiences with her ability to sing and dance and admittedly did a decent job. While one shouldn’t expect to see her storming the Grammy stage anytime soon, she brought extra life and vivaciousness to the film with her flashy moves and equally flashy costume.  The fabulously chic sparkle of her mod silver fringe get-up lit the stage she performed on, accented with GQ-looking men dressed in tailored black suits and skinny ties.
Cruz’s performance as Carla was also wonderfully done. Her longing for Guido was obvious and like an infatuated puppy, she panted at his every beckoning and followed every command he gave. It was clear that she was willing to give up her life with her husband to remain at Guido’s side, but was left disappointed when she learned she was only a source of physical pleasure for him. Her provocative performance of “A Call from the Vatican” solidified her status as the inspiration for Guido’s fantasies.
Day-Lewis was convincing as an overly self-absorbed Italian man and Cotillard as his sweet but scorned wife.  She was by far the most likable of the female roles, followed closely by Lilli (Judi Dench), the voice-of-reason. These two, along with members of the Vatican, tried to guide Guido on the right path but like a stubborn egoist, he refused to follow until it was the only option left.  
Guido was undeservedly spoiled by the women in his life and was unworthy of the affection thrown at him. “Nine” attempts to send this message but loses it in the muck of an unbearably drawn-out plot. YouTube the film’s musical performances and you’ll get the highlights without wasting the money.