- Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido Contini
- Marion Cotillard as Luisa Contini
- Penélope Cruz as Carla Albanese
- Judi Dench as Lilli La Fleur
- Fergie as Saraghina
- Nicole Kidman as Claudia Jenssen
- Kate Hudson as Stephanie
- Sophia Loren as Mamma
Adapted from the musical play of the same name and inspired by Fellini’s 8 1/2, Nine is a visually lovely musical with some great sequences but the lack of emotional connection doesn’t involve. It is a flawed movie, but there are certain points to praise, even if it adds up to less than the sum of its parts.
In 1960’s Italy, Guido Contini is a well renowned film director. As he approaches middle age, he is starting to develop writer’s block and his relationships with the women in his life further complicate the matter. With a script not written and producers hounding him to make a hit movie, he begins to struggle whilst juggling the many female influences on him and his own personal torment. The women include his neglected wife Luisa; his fiery yet unstable mistress Carla Albanese; his confidant and costume designer Lilli La Fleur; a prostitute who Guido met as a child named Saraghina; his muse and leading lady Claudia Jenssen; a Vogue reporter Stephanie and the memory of his Mamma. Through musical numbers that play out as fantasies in Guido’s head, we see the turmoil of both him and the many women who surround him, some of these numbers come off better than others.
The whole concept of the musical numbers being part of the tormented Guido’s imagination works in some cases, yet director Rob Marshall achieved this effect better in his last musical Chicago. The film should be praised visually for the way it conjures up the stylish 60’s in Italy in all its glory. Special mention must go to the costumes which are ravishing to look and crafted with precision. Yet the script doesn’t have much of an emotional core and the results emerge as hollow.
The cast of the film is star-studded beyond belief but only three actors are given a chance to expand on their characters because of the flawed script. Daniel Day-Lewis is reliable as ever as the tormented director Guido, managing to imbue him with a melancholy the script sometimes overlooks. Penélope Cruz plays his feisty mistress Carla, who feels pushed away by Guido. Cruz has a very sexy song to perform “A Call from the Vatican” which she pulls off amazingly, it is a raunchy burlesque style number which will no doubt send pulses racing. Yet Cruz also manages to show the vulnerable side to Carla that is sometimes hidden by her passionate demeanor. But the best performance of the bunch is Marion Cotillard. She beautifully and movingly plays Luisa, the neglected wife of Guido who is growing tired of his philandering and feeling the pain of his rejection. Cotillard has two numbers that are both stunning because of her. The first “My Husband makes Movies” an emotional ballad about her undying love for her husband is beautifully executed and her face expresses her emotions in a subtle yet stunning way. The second “Take it All” is her anguished and angry message to Guido that she won’t stand his treatment any longer. It is in this number that Cotillard really shines by combining sexy determination with a bruised anger whilst baring her body and soul.
Unfortunately for the rest of the cast, their roles are sketchily written. The delightful Judi Dench is not given enough time to be memorable as Guido’s costume designer and the one who gives him advice. Fergie, most famous as the girl from the Black Eyed Peas, does manage to have an excellent musical number in “Be Italian” despite her character of Saraghina, the beach dwelling prostitute who Guido meets as a child, not really calling for much in the way of acting. Nicole Kidman as Guido’s muse Claudia is a stunning actress to watch but the emotional connection with Guido is lacking and her character as a result is not very memorable. Like with Fergie, Kate Hudson has a strong musical number in “Cinema Italiano” which is stunningly cut between black and white with colour, but her character doesn’t really serve much of a purpose. Finally, the eternally beautiful and talented Sophia Loren portrays the lingering spirit of Guido’s mother but although she is moving in her delivery, the narrative doesn’t flesh out her character enough.
All in all, Nine is a very flawed picture that has a weak script and wastes the talents of some actors. But it is a visually arresting piece and it does have some brilliantly choreographed musical numbers.