NINE - Still A Crowd-Pleaser
Cast: Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Stacy Ferguson, Martina Stella and Elio Germano
Director: Rob Marshall
Screenplay: Michael Tolkin and Anthony Mingella
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? With its cast of Oscar-winning stars and such huge names, who can resist this extravaganza, especially during Oscar season? However, Rob Marshall 're-imagining' of Frederico Fellinni's 8 1/2 is not as rousing and feet-tapping as his Oscar-winning Chicago, but this 'homage of sorts to Fellini' is worth the watch.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The celebrated and pompous film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) is hit by writer's block. He struggles with his unwritten script for his comeback film called Italia. Looking for inspiration, he turns to his mistress (Penelope Cruz as Carla), his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard), his muse (Nicole Kidman as Claudia), his costume designer and confidante (Judi Dench as Lilli) and his childhood memories (especially of his mother, played by Sophia Loren) to solve his crisis.
REVIEW: Nine boasts 10 song-and-dance numbers, three of which are created specifically for the movie. All are solos, with Daniel Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard getting two each while the other six stars have one each. Although some of the songs advance the plot, some seem to have written to give its star a chance to sing and dance. This is especially true of Kate Hudson's Stephanie, whose "Cinema Italiano" is not in the Broadway production.
The most sexy and delectable is Cruz's seductive dream number (pictured right), while Fergie's "Be Italian," is also energetic and catchy. Too often, the narrative portions of Nine feel like bridges to move from one song to the next. It is a surprise to find that Hudson is so musically-inclined but the best songs are by Cotillard, the award-winning ingenue from La Vie En Rose.
The most disappointing is Kidman's number. There are also some awkward moments, but since we can root for Day-Lewis and his strong performance as the protagonist (based on Fellini, perhaps), we can overlook these and just enjoy the set pieces.
THE LOWDOWN: Definitely a crowd-pleaser.