Set in 1965, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Guido Contini - a famous Italian director, whose last few films haven't been very successful, which means he needs something amazing to forge a comeback (he's the Nicole Kidman of directors). Sure, he's a big star, and the press loves him (told ya he was the Nicole Kidman of directors), but Guido is struggling with his latest film, mostly because he hasn't written the script, yet. While the movie is supposed to start shooting in a matter of days, Guido has horrible writer's block, and can't stop thinking about all of the women in his life, especially his beautiful wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard), who is ready to leave him.
Can he convince his favorite leading actress, Claudia (Nicole Kidman), to sign on for the film even though she doesn't know what it is about?
Will Luisa leave him?
Director Rob Marshall and the writing team (based on the Italian musical Nine, which was based on the Fellini movie 8 1/2) make Nine an almost psychedelic experience as the audience bounces around between Guido's dreams, present day, the past and more. It's a wild, somewhat farcical trip featuring some beautiful sights straight out of classic Italian cinema including cutting edge fashion, awesome sports cars, amazing locations, coffee bars, and outdoor bistros. I almost thought I would see Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn cruising by on a Vespa!
Then, Marshall and the cast deliver the performances. While these tunes don't move the story forward as well as the songs in Chicago did, most give us an insight into Guido's past mistakes, his worries and the dreadful aspects of the relationships with the women who sing the songs. Unfortunately, Marshall has almost everyone belting it out, so the audience doesn't always have a chance to hear subtlety or changing dynamics used to evoke different emotions.
The audience gets sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes rousing tunes, but not as often or with as much power as they could have. Some leave you wondering why the song or story is important (I'm looking at you Kate Hudson), but, most of the time, we learn something about Guido and his peccadilloes, and, when we don't; at least the singing doesn't stink.
While Cruz has a scintillating number everyone who sees the movie will be talking about (Two words. Hubba Hubba), Cotillard delivers the most heartbreaking and nuanced performance of all. Her tender, sad and sometimes wistful song makes Fergie, Hudson and their brash, over-the-top performances look like American Idol audition rejections.
Then, we get to see the spectacle that is Daniel Day-Lewis. This man is so dedicated to his craft, he even sings with an authentic Italian accent (he doesn't sound like Super Mario)! He shows Guido's machismo, charisma and passion, along with the meek, selfish, pathetic, needy side of him that always gets in the way. It's fascinating to watch a man who receives so much constant adulation lack the confidence he needs to move forward, yet, Lewis makes us believe it.
Nine is a bit artsy for some people, others may be turned off by the jumping around through time and in and out of Guido's mind, and not all of the performances are as amazing as Day-Lewis and Cotillard (and Cruz!!!!), but Nine is one for those who like a show stopping song and dance number (in a good way).
3 Waffles (Out of 4)
Nine is rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking.