Nine featured image

reviewed by Marc Glassman

Rob Marshall, director; Michael Tolkin & Anthony Minghella, script based on the book for the musical “Nine” by Arthur Kopit, music & lyrics by Maury Yeston, adapted from 81/2 by Fellini. Rob Marshall, co-choreographer w/John DeLuca and co-producer w/DeLuca, Marc Platt & Harvey Weinstein. Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis (Guido Contini), Marion Cotillard (Luisa), Penelope Cruz (Carla), Judi Dench (Lilli), Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson (Saraghina), Kate Hudson (Stephanie), Nicole Kidman (Claudia), Sophia Loren (Mama)

Oscar winners abound in Nine, a misbegotten fable of artistic despair. Rob Marshall, Chicago‘s filmmaker, directed this homage to Fellini’s 81/2 and (in many ways) Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz. Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Guido, a tremendously attractive individual who has one major problem: he has lost contact with his creative muse and can’t make a new film. Co-starring with Day-Lewis are Marion Cotillard as his wife Luisa, Penelope Cruz as his mistress Carla, Judi Dench as his costume designer and confidant Lilli, Nicole Kidman as his thespian inspiration, Claudia and Sophia Loren as his mother.

Yes, the majority of them have won Academy Awards–and all have been nominated. So have Anthony Minghella, who co-wrote the script and Harvey Weinstein, the film’s co-producer. With all that talent, what could go wrong?

Plenty, it turns out. This musical takes as its theme the problems inherent in the creative act. Guido is the Maestro, an acclaimed Italian auteur, whose films have garnered the admiration of people around the world. Many of those admirers are women, which is fine with the prolific artist, who is always willing to share his passion with the right person. True, he’s married to the brilliant Luisa, the star of his early–and best–films but he can hardly say “no” to the gorgeous Carla. And Guido’s memories remained inflamed by his Mama, who always supported him and Saraghina, the corporeal muse of his youth. Then there’s Stephanie, the slightly vulgar but beautiful Vogue reporter and Claudia, the woman he’s made a star but with whom he’s never had an affair.

So many women! So little time! How can one create a film with such willing and willful distractions?

But don’t blame the women. Marshall doesn’t–and neither do his writers. So who’s at fault?

Ah–there’s the rub. In Fellini and Fosse, the anger and frustration is directed right back at the artists and their alter egos, Marcello Mastroianni in 81/2 and La Dolce Vita and Roy Scheider in All That Jazz. Behind the glamour of Cinecitta and Cannes and Hollywood and Broadway, Fellini and Fosse confessed, there are many private moments filled with fear–of failure, of a lessening of the artistic spark, of an inability to get to the roots of their creativity. Their happiest moments, those films told us, occurred when they were compelled them to make great work.

It was their inner muse they always needed. Not producers. Not women. Not the media or the toadies who always praised them.

Nine is all about appearances, never about the true trauma of creativity. Of course, some of the choreography is exciting and sexy. Naturally, many performers come off well: Dench and Cotillard, in particular, are marvelous. But the films and the artists that inspired Nine were the very best to ever work in cinema and musical theatre.

This film is a poor player that struts on that hallowed stage and will be heard no more. It signifies nothing. 9 minus 9 equals zero.

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