Following the success of Oscar-winning musical Chicago in 2002, director Rob Marshall has revisited the stage-to-screen genre with a stunning adaptation of Nine, based on Frederico Fellini’s 8 ½.
Nine follows the life of Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), a world famous film director struggling to find the inspiration to create whilst also balancing the multitude of fiery women in his life. Day-Lewis is surprisingly comfortable in the role of Contini, enrapturing viewers with the intensity and enigma of an eccentric, sex-addicted man. And who knew he could sing, dance, and speak Italian?
However, the leading man is impressively overshadowed by the outstanding female ensemble cast, who dazzle in their respective roles. Marion Cotillard is demure and enchanting as Luisa Contini – a former-actress who impatiently waits while her husband runs around Rome with his sexually deviant mistress (Penelope Cruz). Cruz is a highlight, absolutely nailing a burlesque-like musical number which is guaranteed
to excite any warm-blooded male in the audience. She is rivalled only by the singer Fergie, who makes a cameo appearance as a whore from Guido’s childhood. The Black Eyed Peas diva performs the film’s most memorable song, ‘Be Italian’, demonstrating great dedication to the cause (she gained 20 pounds for the role!).
Also surprising is Dame Judi Dench, who stars as Guido’s costume designer come therapist – the only person willing to tell him the brutal truth. The last thing I expected was to see the James Bond veteran getting around in a corset and feather boa, but Dench holds her own beautifully.
The time-shifting structure of Nine is surprisingly easy to follow, as the story shifts simply between colourful musical performances and black-and-white flashbacks of Guido’s past. Rome in the 60s is a luscious setting for the present time, evoking all the drama and lust of the characters themselves. Because of this, it is easy to ignore the few lowlights in the film. Kate Hudson is ill-fitting as a cheeky and ambitious Vogue journalist, in a performance which should have been left on the proverbial cutting-room floor. Nicole Kidman, starring as Guido’s muse Claudia, is offered little character development, and Sophia Loren is uncharacteristically wooden as the late Mama Contini.
Musical lovers be prepared – Nine is not light and family friendly in the same strain as Mamma Mia!, but it is equally entertaining, deliciously shocking, and the perfect film to accompany a glass of red wine and a lover.
By Laura Wood
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