Nine is what it is — a musical based on a stage musical based on 8 1/2, a 1963 Federico Fellini classic about a brilliant Fellini-like director who can’t decide what his next film will be about. It’s also a kind of sleek-elite Euro mood piece about 1960s Italy and sunglasses, hot women and cool coastal villages and…you know, artistic ennui and weltschmerz and all that aromatic razmatzz. It’s not about “story” as a kind of Italian glide-along atmosphere — a lather of mood and attitude and locale and Euro-coolness.
It’s not, in other words, the kind of musical that people who liked Chicago for the recognizably greedy, middle-American characters are necessarily going to relate to. It lacks…refutes, really, what is commonly regarded as the common touch. It’s about the kind of movie-making people whose every word and gesture expresses the fact that they are removed from (and are most likely disdainful of) the American experience. People who would rather take a bullet in the head than be fat or poorly dressed or visit Venice during tourist season.
So given all this history and expectation — it’s a locked-down thing without any wiggle or improv room — it really isn’t too bad. I mean, it’s Nine…whaddaya want?
It’s certainly not painful to sit through. I guess I could amp up the enthusiasm and say that I had a moderately okay time with it, although I didn’t care at all — at all — for director Rob Marshall‘s decision to shoot most of the musical numbers on the same London sound stage, over and over and over. I saw it with a lady who lives for Broadway musicals and she wasn’t over the moon about it, so there’s that too.
The actresses are all pretty good, and yes, Marion Cotillard has the strongest role as the wronged wife. (The fact that she sings two songs compared to everyone else having one tells us that Marshall sees her as the deepest and most compelling character).
And I loved watching Daniel Day Lewis slink around in this thing, his posture and composure in a constantly glum or downish angle. He’s such an intense actor and so deeply sunk into his Guido character, and without anything to do except smoke cigarette after cigarette without coughing, and wear those great looking black suits and drive that cool little light-blue sports car around. And I love the sound of his voice — it’s like an oboe or a bassoon.
Given the likelihood that the women who’ve enjoyed The Blind Side and are currently very keen to see It’s Complicated are going to feel a little bit cool towards Nine (everyone had to know this going in — it doesn’t have much of a heart and the music is only so-so) it’s actually kind of ballsy that Harvey Weinstein pushed it through and got it made. I respect that. It’s not a musical for mall people. It’s really a musical for big-city gay guys, except I know a couple who’ve seen it and aren’t huge fans so go figure.
I can’t move myself to write any more today. It was hard enough banging this out. Maybe a little more tomorrow.