Reviews

Nine

3

Marshall’s musical falls in and out of step…

Rob Marshall made the Hollywood musical bankable again with 2002’s Chicago, the first hoofer to scoop Best Picture since 1968’s Oliver! With Nine, the director/choreographer may well have put the genre back into mothballs.

Returning $20m on an $80m budget in the US, with no big award-wins to cover its blushes, it fell from hot prospect to non-event movie.

What went wrong? For starters, the story. There isn’t one. Loosely retooling Fellini’s 8½ (via an ’80s Broadway musical), it’s a tale of creative stasis with little forward momentum. Apt, but frustrating.

Fellini solved the problem by daisy-chaining incidents with fluent élan; Marshall plots a more ragged course, jumping disjointedly from ’60s Rome to song-and-dance numbers playing in the head of blocked auteur Guido (Daniel Day-Lewis).

But unlike Marshall’s Memoirs Of A Geisha, the flaws fascinate as much as grate. Day-Lewis grapples manfully with his arguable miscasting. His musical talents and Italian-ness may be questionable, but slouching self-absorption is rarely this watchable.

At best the songs knock it out the park (Fergie’s growly ‘Be Italian’, Marion Cotillard’s Oscar-nommed ‘Take It All’), at worst are merely forgettable. And at best-worst there’s Kate Hudson’s ‘Cinema Italiano’, a tacky toe-tapper that rhymes ‘prism’ with ‘neo-realism’.

Day-Lewis’ leading ladies are an equally mixed bag: Nicole Kidman and Sophia Loren are mere set dressing, Judi Dench does M in a bob, leaving Cotillard to inject emotional razzle-dazzle as Guido’s estranged other half. Without her, Nine might dance, but it wouldn’t sing.
 

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