Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nine (Rhoades)

“Nine” Counts on Fellini-esque Tale
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

If you were doing Federico Fellini’s classic film “8 1/2” one better, what would you call the result? In this case, “Nine.”

“8 1/2” was a surrealistic autobiography of the Italian film director.

“Nine” tells us about Guido Contini, a famous director who is struggling to find harmony between his professional and personal lives. Or at least the women in his life.

You can catch this kick-up-its-heels pseudo-biography at the Tropic Cinema.

Daniel Day-Lewis, complete with black hat, portrays the ersatz Fellini.

And, ah, the women!

We meet his wife (Marion Cotillard), his mistress (Penelope Cruz), his film star muse (Nicole Kidman), his confidant and costume designer (Judi Dench), an American fashion journalist (Kate Hudson), the whore from his youth (Fergie), and his mother (Sophia Loren).

Guido wrestles with a maddening midlife crises while at the same time struggling to produce his next movie.

“Nine” is based on a Broadway musical. The 1982 production, with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, won five Tony Awards (including Best Musical).

This film version is director Rob Marshall’s latest foray into Hollywood musicals. As you’ll recall, his “Chicago” won 6 Academy Awards.

“Nine” succeeds in transforming reality into fantasy. The musical numbers have been called “magical.” A seamless production, you never ask yourself why the people are suddenly bursting into song or dance.

Casting the film was as big a challenge for Marshall as it is for fictional Guido: Antonio Banderas (who had starred in the Broadway production) was disappointed when he didn’t get the film role. Javaier Bardem had won the lead, but dropped out due to exhaustion. Intense actor Daniel Day-Lewis was a long shot, until he sent producers a video of him singing (who woulda thought?).

Penelope Cruz auditioned for the part of the muse but was cast as the mistress. Marion Cotillard auditioned for the confidant but wound up as the wife. Demi Moore auditioned but didn’t make the cut. Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman, Anne Hathaway, Amy Adams, and Katie Holmes were considered for roles but lost out.

Looks like Rob Marshall could wind up with as many women problems as Guido. Or Fellini himself.

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