Sunday, December 27, 2009

Review: 'Nine' [C]

By Chase Kahn
At one point in Rob Marshall's "Nine," a Broadway adaptation first conceived from Federico Fellini's "8 1/2," a Vogue fashion journalist (Kate Hudson) describes to the infamous Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) why she loves his films. She mentions the black-and-white imagery, the dress, the style, the glamour and the glitz.

Nine exudes all of that. It's all about the style - the slim suits and cigarettes, the shades, the operatic lighting, the vintage Alfa Romeo Roadster. It's not so much a film as it is a glossy, prettied-up and mass-produced reduction of Fellini into a barrage of song-and-dance numbers. Simply put, it's a film for Kate Hudson.

Even standout performances from Daniel Day-Lewis as the stretched-out, indecent and creatively-stumped Guido Contini or Marion Cotillard as his beautiful, broken-hearted wife get buried under all of the extravaganza.

Rob Marshall, who directed the Oscar-winning "Chicago," has no grasp of this story, and his dull, repetitive and tiring music-video compositions (all of which are performed on the same stage intended to be Contini's film set) lack the required weight - both musically and lyrically - to add anything here. He's lucky his actors squeezed as much out of it as they did.

Occasionally, the film finds a sure foot during one of its many musical numbers - Fergie's "Be Italian" reaches several high-notes of choreography and song - but far too often they fall painfully flat (see Nicole Kidman and Judi Dench) or are wrung through cinematographer Dion Beebe's grainy black-and-white lens (see Cotillard's final number.)

Nine has zero sustainability - it's dress-up, play-along Fellini for the uninitiated. It's an Italian cinema appetizer that teases and swoons with its distinctive Euro-styled production, but it doesn't fill you up. Sooner or later, you need the real thing.

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