Rating: * * *
Verdict: Looks fantastic but is emotionally underwhelming.
Director Rob Marshall, who was behind the Oscar-winning musical Chicago, knows how to recreate big, bold musical numbers of energetic choreography, glitz and glamour. Nine is full of them. And it's certainly a visual spectacle, but unfortunately it offers little else.
Strong vocal performances and lavish sets aren't quite enough to make this musical, based on Federico Fellini's 1963 seminal film 8 1/2, matter emotionally. For all its lavishness Nine doesn't pull you in, its music doesn't sweep you up, and this film has little of the surrealism, intelligence, torment or passion of Fellini's original classic.
That said, it's a fun watch, mostly thanks to Daniel Day-Lewis' charming and dapper interpretation of Guido Contini, a genius Italian film director who has come down with a case of creative anguish as he prepares to shoot his new film Italia, for which he has yet to write the script.
Suffering from writer's block, and with pressure mounting from his producer Dante (Ricky Tognazzi), his muse, actress Claudia (an uninspiring Kidman), his costume designer and confidante Lilli (Dench) and groupies such as Vogue journalist Stephanie (Kate Hudson), he escapes Rome for a hotel on the coast where he must also manage his needy mistress Carla (Cruz) and his betrayed wife (Cotillard).
All these women, along with his dead mother (Loren) and Saraghina (Fergie), the village whore from his childhood, come alive as memories and fantasies on his empty film set as he desperately searches for inspiration. Dench gets all the best quips, but Cruz and Cotillard have the most dramatic of the female roles, their sizzling singing performances help drive the narrative, unlike most of the other performances. The music isn't terribly catchy, but Hudson's perky rendition of Cinema Italiano is memorable, along with Cotillard's two heartfelt tracks.
The joy here is in those individual performances, the expensive looking sets and the beautiful Italian landscapes, but none of this is enough to make this emotionally resonant.
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard and Sophia Loren
Director: Rob Marshall
Running time: 119 mins
Rating: M (Sexual References)