The movie version of the stage musical “Nine” is much heralded. Lots of money is being spent to bring this movie to the attention of awards voters at this time. To which I say: Rob Marshall, this movie is no “Chicago.”
There is a reason that stage musicals take a long time to get to the screen: they are often difficult to translate. Nine is no exception. Nine first appeared on a Broadway stage when the sexual revolution was still hot on everyone’s breath, with promiscuity celebrated. We are now living in an AIDS-scarred world, where sex addiction is a common Oprah topic, and fidelity is celebrated.
So it’s hard to root for this world-weary hero who is supposed to be Federico Fellini. Oh, poor man. He has all these beautiful (if air-headed and emotionally unstable) actresses throwing themselves at him. He really has it rough.
And, really, he loves his wife. Yeah. OK.
To say nothing of the fact that modern audiences probably barely remember most of Fellini’s classics, though there are touches that harken back to his films throughout (and Marion Cotillard has the same eyes as his wife and muse, Giulietta Masina). Daniel Day-Lewis, the Felliniesque lead also looks starkly like Fellini’s stand-in hero, Marcello Mastroianni. There is a scene with Nicole Kidman that looks beautifully like the fountain scene from 8 1/2. Those touches are nice, as is the scenery of Italy.
Visually, the film is a treat. It alternates between black and white and color for really no apparent reason, though it is interesting to watch. The dance numbers, as expected from someone who directed the Academy Award-winning Chicago, are spectacular and lush.
We have Fergie as Fellini/Guido Contini’s first seductress doing a passionate song with the dancers using dirt for emphasis. Wonderfully staged, visually stunning. We have Kate Hudson playing a Vogue editor, doing a go-go 60s dance, and reminding all the world of her illustrious mother (Goldie Hawn, of course). We have Penelope Cruz, writhing around doing a sexy dance (which I’ve got to believe Jane Krakowski did much more with onstage). And (dear God, help us) we have Judi Dench SINGING.
Sophia Loren lusciously plays Contini’s mother, and makes you wish there were more actual Italians in the production.
But the story is thin and hard to get into. The music really isn’t as good or memorable or toe-tapping as Chicago was. Marion Cotillard was quite wonderful, but I find the rest of this production hard to recommend.