It’s rare that a movie looks so good on paper. First off there’s the incredible cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Fergie, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman and even Sophia Loren! And if that’s not enough for you, it’s directed by Rob Marshall of Chicago fame. It received tons of award buzz, including 4 Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe nomination for best picture. Yet despite all of that, Nine somehow manages to be a complete disaster once it makes the jump from paper to the screen.
Our hero (or anti-hero) is the famous Italian director Guido Contini (Day Lewis). He’s supposed to begin filming his hotly anticipated 9th film in just a week but poor Guido hasn’t written a word of the script. In fact, he doesn’t even know what the movie’s going to be about. What’s he going to do?! Instead of working on his script and trying to come up with something (anything!) Guido literally runs away to a seaside resort. He calls his mistress (Cruz) and asks her to come and join him. Of course, his wife (Cotillard) shows up unexpectedly and drama ensues.
Throughout the film, the audience is given glimpses into Guido’s imagination. And only here do we discover why he can’t write the script. Apparently, all he can think about are the various women in his life, scantily-clad, singing and dancing around a half-finished sound stage!! His deceased mother (Loren) is also singing and dancing around his imagination but luckily, she’s more modestly attired than the rest.
The underlying problem with Nine is that it didn’t really need to be made. After all it’s a movie, based on a Broadway play, based on another movie (Fellini’s classic 8 ½). This story really didn’t need another re-telling unless it was done in a completely new and unique way. But here both the witty humor of 8 ½ and the passion of the Broadway version of Nine are completely absent. After watching this, I didn’t feel like I gained any insight or perspective to the tale of Guido Contini. I was just left with the question: “Why?”
As a lover of musicals, I was left doubly disappointed. Not only is the plot incredibly thin but none of the songs are noteworthy. The underlying musical theme of “Be Italian” failed to pull the score together and make the link between story and music. I actually have no idea what “being Italian” had to do with Nine other than the movie being set in Italy and Daniel Day-Lewis putting on a really fake Italian accent.
Even though I didn’t like any of the songs, I can’t fault the cast. All of the women (and Day-Lewis) did an incredible job belting out their respective numbers and the choreography is exquisite. It’s especially amazing considering that, with the exception of Fergie and Kidman, none of the stars have much experience in musical theatre. It’s too bad that they were given such poor material here.
I don’t want to seem like a total downer so I’ll end this on a positive note. The costumes are absolutely brilliant. Every scene had at least one incredible piece. I especially loved the outfits Judi Dench and Kate Hudson wore in their musical numbers. Colleen Atwood definitely deserved her Oscar nomination!
Nine arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG4-AVC encode framed at 2.40:1. While is not the most impressive video transfer Sony has done, but they managed to give a more than decent treatment to Nine. The film has a rather dark look that ultimately ends up affecting some of the fine details on the actor’s faces and such. Most of the structures and all around items remain well reproduced and nice details. Colors aren’t particularly vibrant due to the fact the most of the film is dark. Several scenes transfer from regular colors to white and black, which unfortunately suffer from some banding. On a positive note the film retains some nice sharpness. Black levels are inky and never appear bland or washed out. The film features a fine layer of grains throughout, but it appears to have a heavier look when the pictures transitions to white and black. Overall Nine features a decent transfer, definitely not the best out there but not the worst either, Sony did a good job.
Nine arrives on Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless track. This is one of those soundtracks that will always try to use as reference material. Sony has really gone far and beyond with the quality of this release. The dialogue is clean, clear, and crisp always reproduced without a hitch. The bass is always used during musical numbers and does a great job at delivering enough power for every note to sound great. Every speaker boasts an impressive clear sound at every moment during the music that will engulf the viewers. Atmosphere effects are constantly appearing in the speakers that makes everything so much more believable. Like I said, this is an excellent soundtrack by Sony and without a doubt I will say it’s definitely reference material.
Some of the special features are of mild interest but for the most part they’re overly long and boring.
- The Incomparable Daniel Day Lewis – The cast and crew talk about their experiences working with Day-Lewis
- The Women of ´Nine’ – The female stars talk about their roles
- Director Rob Marshall – Cast and crew members share their stories about Marshall
- Behind the Look of ´Nine’ – Colleen Atwood and the stars talk about the fashions featured in the film. This is quite entertaining!
- The Dancers of ´Nine´ – We get to go behind the scenes of the dance auditions for the film.
- The Choreography of ´Be Italian´ – Rob Marshall, Fergie, and the dancers talk about this interesting number which features a lot of sand!
- The Making of ´Cinema Italiano´ – A behind-the-scenes look at the making of this musical number. Who knew that Kate Hudson could sing?!
- The Choreography of ´Cinema Italian.´ – Kate Hudson learns to dance like her mom.
- Music Videos – Featured are “Cinema Italiano,” “Take It All” and “Unusual Way.” They’re slightly entertaining.
- Screen Actors Guild Q&A – Cast and crew answer questions about the film. Most of these have already been answered in the previous special features.
- Commentary with Director Rob Marshall and Producer John DeLuca – It was interesting to hear how much work (rehearsal and filming) went into each scene.
- Sophia Loren Remembers Cinecitta Studios – This is a cute feature that helps to tie Nine to 8 ½ – although I’m sure Fellini would roll over in his grave if he ever saw Nine!
Nine really disappoints on so many levels – musically and theatrically. The Blu-ray release features an decent video transfer, but boy the audio is impressive to say the least. Nine also features an array of supplements that are sure to keep you busy after the movie is over. I can only recommend it to those completeists who are trying to collect all musicals ever made or all movies nominated for an Oscar. Otherwise just say Nein! to Nine.
The screen captures are only a small representation of what the Blu-ray looks like and are not representative of Blu-ray’s true quality.