All-star cast can’t give heart to Fellini-inspired musical

“Nine” is a pretentious mess, a lavish pseudo-Italian embellishment with a soul as dry as ice.
Daniel Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard star in "Nine."
Daniel Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard star in "Nine."

“Nine” is a pretentious mess, a lavish pseudo-Italian embellishment with a soul as dry as ice.

It has all the fixings of an Italian neo-classic-Felliniqesque film. And why not? This sumptuous concoction is inspired by the great director Federico Fellini, whose “81/2” is mined in this musical version, which adorned the Broadway stage in 1980.

It’s the saga of an artist in search of a muse, a lost soul looking back on his failures, triumphs, regrets, loves won, loves lost. It’s a forlorn affair, a tale of woe redeemed by the majestic presence of women — a virtual galley of beauties. The calling cards here are embodied by the glittering likes of Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, Stacy Ferguson, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren.

’Nine’

DIRECTED BY: Rob Marshall

STARRING: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Stacy Ferguson, Kate Hudson and Sophia Loren

RATED: PG-13

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

Talk about an all star-cast! Pow! Knock-Out!

The festa’s centerpiece is flavored and spiced by the leading man, the anguished director Guido Contini, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, who displays a Mediterranean presence and continental sensibility. He is meant, of course, to conjure up the memory of the great director, but something is missing in Roma.

Not much soul

Let’s say there’s a difference between being Italian and playing at being Italian and leave it that. This is not to disparage Day-Lewis’s work, but to note the absence of soul.

“Nine” is a work which tries too hard to generate passion. Perhaps this is the reason the leading man looks so damn uncomfortable.

Consider this line: (“I feel my body chill/Gives me a special thrill/Each time I see that Guido neo-realism.”)

It’s a series of fragments, brilliantly staged but hollow at the core. Everyone is working hard, but there’s precious little heat, and not one memorable song. (Fergie comes close with a rousing “Be Italian.”) Oddly, the movie’s dramatic power comes from Dench, and certainly not from Kidman or Hudson. As Guido’s wife, Cotillard creates the most vivid character. Like Cruz, she is fleshed out, but only with a polished number that seems obligatory. On to the next number, Maestro.

No matter how you slice it, “Nine” is dazzle-dazzle cinema, a vapid showcase for talent rather than a rousing musical.

Reach Dan DiNicola at [email protected]

Categories: Entertainment, Life & Arts

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