When it comes to transferring Broadway musicals to the big screen, Rob Marshall is the go to man. He did it successfully with Chicago and he does it again with Nine. He takes the play, which is based on Fellini's movie 8 ½, and populates it with beautiful women and enjoyable musical numbers. Then he tops it off with stunningly good acting led by Daniel Day-Lewis as the confused moviemaker.
Guido Contini (Day-Lewis) is a man in a crisis. He has been a successful filmmaker in Italy but his talent well seems to have dried up. His last two films have been flops and now he is starting one titled Italy and he doesn't even have a script. He is trying to bull his way through it but in his heart he knows he is lost.
He seeks advice from his costume designer and best friend Lilli (Judi Dench). She has no answers for him. Then throughout the film he encounters his mistress (Penelope Cruz), his leading lady (Nicole Kidman), a journalist (Kate Hudson) and his wife (Marion Cotillard). He also recalls memories of a prostitute (Fergie) he knew in his childhood, as well as times with his Mamma (Sophia Loren) that mean so much to him.
With each woman he encounters or remembers there is a musical number. Fergie seems the most successful with her musical turn. She can belt out a song and she holds nothing back on "Be Italian." That is the most dynamic of the musical events, but it is Cotillard as Luisa Contini who gives the film its heart and its dramatic impact. When she sings "My Husband Makes Movies" she acts the emotion and vulnerability of her character in a heart-wrenching way.
The actresses bring back memories of other European movie queens. Kidman brings up her inner Anita Ekberg, Fergie reminds you of Claudia Cardinale, Hudson is a blonde beauty in the mode of Monica Vitti, Cruz is as breathtakingly beautiful as was Gina Lollobrigida, Cotillard captures the sad eyed desperation and emotional fragility of Giuletta Masina, and Loren remains timeless in her earth mother beauty.
Day-Lewis acts and interacts with all the women, but first and foremost he creates a character who dominates the film. He is the centerpiece and it is Guido Contini who grows and changes. Day-Lewis is one of the world's greatest actors and he does not falter in this performance. He is amazing.
The movie is rated PG-13 for profanity and sexual situations.
You can't just sit back and enjoy Nine. The film requires the audience to absorb the story between the musical numbers and even the plot messages given out by the musical numbers. There is a strong script here and it makes an impact. This is thanks to the contribution of the late Anthony Minghella and Michael Tokin, as well as the writers for the Broadway production.
You may not be familiar with the songs from Nine before entering the movie theater but you will have them in your head when you leave. This film is another triumph for Rob Marshall and a film that will last through the ages.
I scored Nine a Fellini-esque 8 out of 10.