There aren’t enough words in the English language to do justice to telling how much I loathed Tony Award®-winning Broadway musical “Nine.” It was the worst Broadway musical I have ever seen, and I’ve seen most of them. This movie proves that even if you have an Oscar®-winning director, Rob Marshall, and an A-list cast (well, at least by “The New Yorker” standards, not mine), if you start out with a sow’s ear, what you are going to end up with is a sow’s ear.
This movie is awful. The music (Maury Yeston) lacks melody of the quality one would expect from a Tony Award®-winning musical, the acting is mediocre, the dancing as fraudulent (as the dancing in Marshall’s last musical, “Chicago”) and the story is virtually non-existent.
What does Rob Marshall have against musical talent? He cast “Chicago” with actors who couldn’t sing or dance a lick and made it look like they could with legerdemain. Marshall creates what looks like music with quick cuts from non-musicians faking it; most actors can sing one or two bars and hit all the notes, given enough takes, as Joaquin Phoenix proved in “Walk the line” (2004). Alas, this magic doesn’t work here. The difference is that “Chicago” had a terrific book and score, two things that “Nine” lacks. In fact, “Nine” lacks everything needed for entertainment.
In “Chicago,” he substituted quick cuts for dancing. He repeats that tactic here but, because the music in “Nine” is so unmemorable (in “Chicago” it was spectacular), he substitutes loudness for music. Even though the songs lack melody and charm, Marshall disguises their lack of quality by having the singers yell the lyrics loudly and dramatically. Alas, an atomic bomb couldn’t hide how bad this music is.
While it’s nice to see Sophia Loren again, in some scenes she look beautiful, and in others she looks more than her age almost as if she had a face lift midway through shooting.
Every second that unshaven Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays the lead Guido Contini, is on the screen he virtually screams that he is acting, that he’s an Englishman pretending to be Italian. He won an Academy Award® for his last histrionic performance in “There Will Be Blood” (2007). Couldn’t Marshall have found an Italian to play an Italian? At least the accent would have been authentic.
The women recruited by Marshall (Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren and Judi Dench) have one thing in common, they can’t sing or dance well enough to be in a professional production. And only one is Italian. But some of them are beautiful. The only true singer in Marshall’s group, Fergie, is a professional with the Black Eyed Peas.
“Nine” is a remake of “8-1/2,” Federico Fellini’s highly-awarded 1963 film about a movie director with writer’s block and the women in his life. Yeston, in converting the movie into a musical, figured that adding the extra element of music and dance to Fellini’s vision of a man’s mid-life battles with women, lust, spiritual yearning and creative fulfillment, it would add up to nine.
This film flits back and forth from fantasy, Guido flashing back to his prior life, to reality. If the play was boring, the film is worse. This film, however, has one of the best trailers ever made. It convinced me that I wanted to see it, even though I knew from having seen the play that the music is dreadful. I’m here to warn you not to be misled by the movie’s outstanding promotion.