What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this beautifully filmed, all-star musical from the director of Chicago (and based on Federico Fellini's classic, albeit mature, film 8 1/2) follows a tortured-genius film director (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his interactions with a series of women (played by the likes of Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, and even Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas) who've had an impact on his creative process. Though there's no actual sex or nudity, many of the songs focus on love, lust, and desire, and almost all of the dance numbers feature scantily clad dancers and suggestive lyrics/movements. There's also some smoking, drinking, and infrequent swearing. Younger viewers probably won’t be able to fully appreciate the movie's mature themes related to relationships and creative challenges, but the cast may draw them in anyway.
What's the story?
Celebrated film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) has everyone on tenterhooks waiting for his next tour de force, Italia. A set has been built at the famed Cinecitta Studios in Rome, and his cast and crew are awaiting a script. But Guido is struggling; haunted by the "ghosts" of women past, he can’t create the masterpiece that everyone’s expecting. His mind wanders to memories of his beloved Mamma (Sophia Loren); of the prostitute (Fergie) he knew as a child; of his muse, the actress Claudia (Nicole Kidman); of his costume designer (Judi Dench); of a Vogue reporter looking to seduce him (Kate Hudson); of his mistress, Carla (Penelope Cruz); and of his long-suffering wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard). An escape to the countryside only complicates matters further when both Carla and Luisa converge to support him ... followed by paparazzi and journalists hungering to know more. Will Guido's new movie, his ninth (hence the film's title), be a hit? Or will it even be made at all?
Is it any good?
It’s a little unclear how an Irish actor wound up playing a tortured Italian director, but how lucky the audience is for it. NINE features Day-Lewis as we’ve rarely seen him: whimsical, unpredictable, prone to both rage and passion. He may not be exactly like Fellini’s hero in 8 1/2 (on which this movie is based) -- nor the Guido of the acclaimed Broadway musical -- but no matter: Day-Lewis makes the character mesmerizingly distressed. He’s writer’s block writ large.
Still, fans of both the Broadway version and Fellini’s classic may be disappointed. Some songs have been excised, and Guido’s women are, by and large, not that fascinating, at least not in this version. Hudson’s reporter is a trifle (and not in a way that serves the character); Cruz, though smoldering, is over the top; Kidman is fleeting. Cotillard is the exception, singing with such feeling -- and acting that way, too. It's lovely to see Loren on the big screen again, and Dench also delivers as a jaded costume designer. Nine may not score a perfect 10, but with its rousing numbers and some strong performances, it successfully entertains.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about creativity. How does Guido try to jump-start the artistic process? How do his struggles affect the people around him? Does it work?
What do you think about Guido’s romantic entanglements? How does his wife feel about his obvious infidelity? Does he care?
How does the movie portray its female characters?