Posted December 29, 2009 by William Dunmyer in Uncategorized

Nine: Fun, Sexy and Opulent, But Something Missing

“Nine,” Rob Marshall’s second big-screen adaptation of a Broadway musical (after the Oscar-winning “Chicago”), is fun, and there are some great musical numbers. But there is something missing overall. As an example, Marshall did little more than put the camera on a tripod and turn it on to film the musical numbers. I’ve rarely seen such uninspired cinematography. Oddly, a film about directing movies has little directorial passion of its own.

The superstar cast seemed to put all their energy into learning to sing and dance, and they do a fine job musically. But most of them forgot about acting. Only Marion Cotillard succeeds at bringing a real character to life. Daniel Day-Lewis never fully comes alive as Guido Contini, an Italian movie director struggling with a massive case of writer’s block.

The musical, which is based on Federico Fellini’s classic film “8 1/2,” depicts a Fellini-like director trying to write a screenplay that is long overdue. The cast and crew are being assembled, all eager to work with the much-heralded genius, but he cannot write a word of dialogue. Instead of writing, he daydreams about the women in his life. His mind is like a stage, and one-by-one he welcomes each woman to that stage to express herself. But in between there is so little story and character development, that the film takes on the quality of a string of disconnected music videos. The stand-out numbers are Kate Hudson’s and Fergie’s, but neither of these actresses is given any character to work with.

If I had been Marshall, I would have gone back to Fellini’s film for inspiration and used that as a guide to dig deeper into the characters. If the stage musical had thin dialogue and characterization, then I would have enriched it with additional script development. Marshall didn’t look for character depth; all his concern was on the musical numbers.

All in all, I’d say that any fan of musical theater will get plenty of enjoyment out of “Nine,” but I’m sure most will consider “Chicago” or “Dreamgirls” much better film adaptations of Broadway shows.

William Dunmyer

William Dunmyer is a lifelong cinephile who fell in love with movies at about the age of 5. He lives in New York City.