When Rob Marshall's Chicago (2002), an adaptation of the jazzy, sassy, and darkly comedic Bob Fosse stage hit, became a ridiculous critical and box office phenomenon, taking home the Best Picture Oscar for that year, it seemed only logical that Marshall and those pesky Weinstein brothers would cash in on it's surprise success.
After the flop Memoirs of A Geisha, Marshall set to work on an adaptation of Nine, a little known, but pretty well regarded little stage musical, based on the classic Italian film 8 1/2. The show, directed by veteran goof ball Tommy Tune (is that his real name?), originally stared Gomez Adams himself, Raul Julia, as Guido Contini, a famous director looking for inspiration for his next film as his wife, mistress (hot flame haired mama Anita Morris!), muse, mother, and producer manage to keep him from his task.
I had seen a good chunk of Nine on stage through bootleg recordings (I'm not ashamed!) and I really quite enjoyed it. When Nine was announced as Marshall's 2nd big screen musical, I have to admit that I was pretty excited. It seemed like it could work and once the cast was lined up and the first teaser trailer debuted, it was abundantly clear that this would be THE movie of the year. Watch that amazing teaser here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_5_lzags3I
So it was with this intense excitement that I settled down into my comfy theatre seat on December 26th, 2009, waiting to be thrown headfirst into a thunderous, tuneful, bombastic, thrill ride of a movie. And after I saw the film, you may ask? Well, I had just one question...why so serious? I just got the DVD and decided to give it another spin.
Nine is really not the bad movie people are making it out to be. It has enough going for it to make it worth seeing at least once. Nine's problem is that it simply isn't that much fun. 8 1/2 was fun, the stage version was fun, so why does this incarnation feel so damned gloomy?
The women fair much better. Rarely have any of them looked more radiant. Resembling a young Audrey Hepburn, Marion Cotillard as Guido's wife, Luisa, is the showstopper here, given both a touching ballad and a brassy, belty striptease number to showcase. She's just effortless! Her eyes can tell you everything you need to know. She was totally snubbed from the Oscar race!
Equally wonderful is Penelope Cruz as Carla, Guido's kooky and unstable mistress. Cruz gets perhaps the rangiest role, having to go from perky and sexy to clingy, suicidal basket case. She transitions seamlessly and also gets my personal favorite number of the film, A Call From The Vatican, where she essentially engages in what an only be described as musical phone sex. Yes, it's THAT awesome! Check it out for yourself here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT0zb47bR50
Sophia Loren appears as Gudio's momma and they dance around a bunch of candles as she croaks, literally, croaks out Guarda LaLuna, a decent little ballad. I know Ms. Loren is a legend and all that, but I gotta tell ya that I feared for her during her number. The scene is filled with candles and I was scared that her face would melt. The woman literally looks like a wax figure now.
So, Kidman takes off her wig, scurries off after her song and then Luisa tells off Guido in one of the better musical numbers of the film, Take It All. Then Guido laments, singing "I Can't Make This Movie" Gee, Guido, y'ever think that if you just stopped envisioning everything taking place on the same damn set, you could start getting somewhere? C'mon, now!
Gudio eventually makes his damn movie, as we have a gigantic film equivalent of a curtain call as all the women return to model and pose just like in the opening. Is this a movie or a Vogue shoot?
Deep stuff, guys. Real deep.
So, what do I think of the film now? I guess it's okey dokey for a late Friday night, but it's just not the most exciting musical one could watch. Pick up Fosse's All The Jazz instead! It has a similar story and concept, but it's actually done very well. It's a shame, cause 8 1/2 really isn't the worst idea for a musical. That honor will always belong to Legally Blonde.
I give Nine 7 out of 10 musical phone sex calls!!! Work dem ropes, Penelope!