By: Alex Phuong (Three Beers) –
Rob Marshall supposedly brought back the movie musical with the Best Picture winner Chicago in 2002. He has also recently produced the film version of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, and is currently working on Mary Poppins Returns. Therefore, it is unfortunate to say that his movie musical Nine ended up being one of the biggest box office flops in recent memory.
The film features all of the elements of an Oscar contender, including: an all-star cast (which includes numerous Oscar winners), elaborate production and costume design, and the attempt to create a modern musical. Unfortunately, that attempt turned out to be very pathetic, especially now that some critics believe that Damien Chazelle brought back the movie musical with La La Land. Nevertheless, Nine still contains delightful musical numbers, and has connections to Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ (1963), which is arguably one of the greatest Italian films ever made. As mentioned previously, the film also features the talents of Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis and award-winning actresses like Judi Dench and Nicole Kidman.
The film might look beautiful, but its beauty is only superficial (both literally and metaphorically). After all, it did receive Oscar nominations for its production design and costume design. In spite of its limited support from the Academy regarding its acting, the characters and plot are all very flat. It is almost as if all of the characters are stock characters (meaning that they evoke stereotypical behaviors of people in the filmmaking business). One of the main reasons for this problem is the simple fact that there are too many characters in this film. In fact, all of the actresses have very limited screen time, ranging from Marion Cotillard’s 17-minute performance to Sophia Loren’s 4-minute performance. The film might showcase the talent of some of the greatest actresses working today, but none of them truly shine in this hot Hollywood mess.
One of the most controversial aspects of Nine is Penélope Cruz’s performance. It is both good and bad at the same time because it allowed Cruz to earn numerous nominations, including one for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Mo’Nique won that award, but Cruz’s nomination suggests that a lot of members within the Academy are men who like watching sexy women on-screen. Cruz also played a similar role, and actually the won the Oscar, for Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona the year before. Sadly, Cruz’s work in this film is somewhat anti-feminist because all she really did was perform a burlesque musical number.
Hollywood oftentimes likes to make movies about Hollywood and/or show business. Famous examples include Shakespeare in Love and Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), both of which actually won Best Picture. It is depressing to say that Nine is a very forgettable film because it could not gain awards momentum during its original release. In fact, it received five Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture- Comedy or Musical, and four Academy Award nominations. This film might have been Oscar bait, but it could not allure the Academy into giving it any actual awards.
Nine (2009) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time there is an elaborate musical number
Take a Drink: whenever any of the actresses perform provocative dancing
Drink a Shot: every time anyone says the name “Guido,” especially whenever Guido repeats his own name