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Nine (2009)

Rating: 7/10

Nothing brings me more joy than a good old singing and dancing musical, so you can imagine my anticipatory giddiness at the very thought of Nine. In many ways, I wasn’t disappointed; Rob Marshall knows how to make a good musical, and because of this, he was able to gather together a dreamy cast that includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, and Judi Dench. Everything looks spectacular and grandiose, the singing and dancing bits are stellar all around—problem is, when there’s NOT singing, things go a little flat.

Guido Contini (Day-Lewis) is a successful director about to begin work on his much-heralded new movie—problem is, he’s only got a week to finish it, and his creative juices have ceased to flow. Seems all the women in his life, from his wife (Marion Cotillard) to his mistress (Cruz) to his dead mother (Sophia Loren), are weighing in on his triumphs and transgressions, and before he can churn out that hit film, he has to figure out how to wrangle all these singing women into some sort of balanced existence.

In Nine, Marshall uses much the same type of storyboard as he did in Chicago, a series of songs that don’t so much pop up out of nowhere with folks bursting into inappropriate song—it’s more like they’re all bits of an alternate singing universe. It works especially well here because nobody with a song can’t sing, and some—especially Cotillard, given two of the film’s strongest songs, and Fergie, who even with her small role as a prostitute nails her brief screen time and makes a huge impression—as she apparently did on Contini’s childhood as well. The sets and shots are all classic glittery musical territory, and when Kate Hudson does a shimmy during her Golden Globe nominated number “Cinema Italiano,” it’s as if the gods of the musical plucked her from a book of perfect casting. And really—who’d a thought Daniel Day-Lewis could sing? Unfortunately, much as the visually stunning Avatar is beautiful to watch but a little boring to think about, plot-wise, so Nine is to its genre. Day-Lewis is, as always, flawless, but Contini isn’t especially likeable or relatable, so while we love hearing his women sing their travails, we can’t get all that invested in his dilemmas. Plus, with so many stars and only so many minutes, some people are going to get the time shaft, and though their songs may offer glimpses into fascinating characters, it’s impossible to get to know any of the women. While all the musical interludes are fantastic, there’s not really anything else to sink your teeth into, and in the end, even if you’re humming the songs, there’s no real connection.

It's Got: Great music, unexpectedly talented singers, well done song transitions

It Needs: More character development, fewer characters, better non-musical story


Nine is a visually stunning triumph musically, but in the end, there’s just not enough room on the canvas for all that star power.