Home > Cynthia Citron, Movies > To other movie critics who panned ‘Nine’: Nein!

To other movie critics who panned ‘Nine’: Nein!

December 25, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

By Cynthia Citron

LOS ANGELES — Film critics have been brutally dismissive of Rob Marshall’s new film “Nine.”  (It received only a 38% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)  So I have to tell you, I LOVED it!
Based on Federico Fellini’s surrealistic and autobiographical 1963 film “8 1/2,” and the 1982 Broadway musical “Nine,” this new production “kicks ass,” as they say.  Who knew Daniel Day-Lewis could sing?  Usually cast as an intense, brooding, driven man (he won his second Oscar for his leading role in “There Will Be Blood”), he is true to character in “Nine,” but with a sizable difference.  In “Nine” he is also a womanizer, a narcissist,  and a physically versatile and vigorous “star” in the grand sense of the word.
But who wouldn’t be a womanizing narcissist when surrounded by a bevy of adoring females: Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, and, as his overindulgent mother, the still gorgeous Sophia Loren?
Judi Dench, playing a Miss Moneypenny role to Day-Lewis’ 007, is a particular standout as she fronts a fan-waving chorus for the song and dance number “Folies Bergeres.”  Clad in sequins and top hat, Dame Judi looks about half her age (she turned 75 earlier this month).  As Day-Lewis’ friend and confidante, she tries to help him through a major meltdown as he goes through a midlife crisis, writer’s block, and existential ennui.  Worse still, he has amassed a huge cast and crew, and is conducting press conferences to promote a film he hasn’t conceived yet—let alone written!
As in all the previous versions of this autobiographical tale, Day-Lewis spends a great deal of time in his past.  From the hectic and vividly colored present he escapes into the richly shadowed black and white of his boyhood—a truly Felliniesque vision of a young man with an incestuous passion for his mother and a lively fantasy world peopled by aggressively sexual women.
Despite his cavalier attitude toward the women who adore him, Guido Contini (Day-Lewis) is a charmer who manages to keep them all in his orbit.  Until they start to fall away, one by one, and he must face his own self-absorbed behavior and decide what is really important.  The fairy-tale ending is thoroughly satisfying, as are the scenes set in a lush nighttime Rome, and the song-and-dance numbers by each of the women.  Also especially wonderful is the boy who plays the Young Guido, a soulful Giuseppe Spitaleri, wistful, wide-eyed, and winsome.  And seemingly a far cry from the selfish egotist he is to become.
The songs by Jewish songwriters Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston are wonderful—you’ll struggle for at least a week to get “Be Italian!” out of your head—and the dancing is lively and fun.  Not quite Bob Fosse or Michael Bennett in originality, the choreography benefits from a helping hand from Tommy Tune, who is thanked in the screen credits.  Also remembered in the credits is the late Anthony Minghella, who wrote the screenplay with Michael Tolkin.

I don’t know what the movie critics were expecting from director Rob Marshall, who stayed very close to the previous versions of “8 ½” in this dynamic musical.  They didn’t like his version very much.  But as far as I’m concerned this film, “Nine,” is definitely a 10.
It opened wide around the country on Christmas Day.

Citron is Los Angeles bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

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