Nine (2009)

(In theatres, February 2010) I’m favourably disposed towards musicals, but my indulgence felt its limits with Nine, a somewhat limp take on Fellini and his approach to cinema.  Some things work really well: the atmosphere of bygone Italy, the portrait of the director as a hedonistic monomaniac, the flashy cinematography, the eye-popping line-up of female stars… it adds up to a project with potential.  Seeing Fergie deliver the film’s best musical number won’t leave anyone indifferent, but it’s more fun to see Kate Hudson pop her way through “Cinema Italiano”, the film’s bounciest number, and Penelope Cruz vamp it up in fancy lingerie.  Lucky Daniel Day-Lewis, playing a director stuck in the middle of so much female attention.  But in most of its musical numbers, the film has trouble distinguishing itself through a series of mopey ballads.  The plot troubles multiply, but they all lead to a narrative crash from which the film never recovers: there’s only an epilogue to suggest that our protagonist is on his way back.  There is, in other words, little pay-off for all that came before, and a surprising amount of boredom on the way there.  Nine is not a film that involves; it prefers to be looked at and occasionally admired for its art direction.  Which is really too bad, since its first half promises a lot more than it delivers in the second.

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