Previews: “Nine”

The cast of "Nine"; image courtesy of

I saw Precious today and want to talk about it length, but need to process what I saw. I’d also like to get to Push, Sapphire’s book on which the movie was based at some point before the end of the year. For now, I’ll say this. I didn’t love it but I did like it, thought Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique were great, was heartened that my matinee screening had a good and diverse turnout, and think you should see it. But you may want to see it with someone and encourage your local theater to have a safe space where people can go if the movie becomes too intense or touches on frought emotions or horrible memories.

For the time being, I thought I’d mention the preview of a coming attraction. Nine, Rob Marshall’s screen adaptation of Arthur Kopit, Mario Fratti, and Maury Yeston’s musical (itself an adaptation of Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2), comes out next week. You can view the trailer here.

So, I know very little about this musical. I only recently discovered the origins of its source material, which I haven’t seen (though, based on my less-than-enthusiastic viewings of La Dolce Vita and I Vitelloni don’t hold high hopes for it, unless Fellini allowed for self-deprication in his autobiographical film the way that Bob Fosse did in All That Jazz, a movie of a similar mold that I love). Beyond that, I knew Raul Julia starred in its Broadway debut back in 1982, the original production won many Tonys, and once heard someone sing “Unusual Way” at a family friend’s wedding, which is a really cryptic song choice for such a ceremony.

As for the film adaptation, I know the players. Rob Marshall directed Chicago and is at the helm here. Daniel Day Lewis plays Guido Contini, a tortured director. The women who populate his life are considerable — Marion Cotillard plays his wife, Penélope Cruz his mistress, Nicole Kidman his muse, Stacey Ferguson (aka Duchess Fergie Ferg) a whore he once knew, and Kate Hudson a fashion writer whose character has a song that was written for the movie. Oh, and Judi Dench is Contini’s costume designer and confidant.

So, I totally suspect a two-hour version of Julio Iglesias’s “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” with generous dashes of love for the authorial presence of male film directors. Also, I think this trailer gives you virtually no insight into what this story is about.

That said, I totally want to see this movie because:

1) I’m always interested in film musicals, whether they are good, bad, screen adaptations of stage musicals, or screen adaptations of stage musicals of feature films. Yes, this means I saw Hairspray and didn’t hate it as much as many of my movie geek friends did. But those matters should be saved for another post.

2) Unlike many people who hated Chicago (several of whom I suspect feel Marty or Roman got robbed out of a Best Picture Oscar for Gangs of New York or The Pianist), I actually enjoyed it. I felt the adaptation stayed true to the source material, deftly staged sequences that are actually going on in the protagonist’s mind, and felt like Catherine Zeta Jones, Queen Latifah, and John C. Reilly were great. I even enjoyed Renée Zellweger and Richard Gere, actors whom I otherwise would rather not watch in a movie. My only real complaint (which Jon Stewart shares), was that Bebe Neuwirth, who won a Tony for her portrayal of Velma Kelly was replaced by Zeta Jones. Otherwise, bring it.

3) Daniel Day Lewis can sing? The same guy who apparently prepared for There Will Be Blood by recording his character’s voice using early 20th century phonographic technology? I am there.

d) I’m fascinated by the presence of female pop stars in contemporary film musicals. As the golden age of film musicals has long since passed, it seems like the ones that do make it to the screen need a familiar face and voice, and they are almost always women with celebrated recording careers. Just as I wondered what Madonna brought to Evita, Queen Latifah brought to Chicago, and Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson brought to Dreamgirls, so too am I curious what Fergie is going to bring to Nine. While detractors might snigger that it’s fitting for the woman who sang “My Humps” and “London Bridge” to play a whore, I’ll counter that she’s the only singer we hear in the trailer. Yes, that’s her singing “Be Italian.”

e) In the movie, I’m interested in seeing a whore play a teacher to our genius director protagonist man. In real life, I advocate the decriminalization of prostitution and would like sex workers to get worker rights and benefits.

f) While I worry that these women are going to be portrayed as long-suffering, one-dimensional objects of Condini’s affection, I want to see a movie that boasts so many actresses. Especially actresses I enjoy, like Cruz, Dench, and Cotillard, who I thought was wonderful in her Oscar-winning turn in La Vie en rose, an the otherwise so-so biopic on Édith Piaf. I’m also really interested in the series of noir-inspired ads she’s doing with La Vie en rose director Olivier Dahan for Dior.

I haven’t seen this many women in an ensemble since I saw Cruz in Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver (note: Cruz is also starring in Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces and I can’t wait for it to start playing in Austin).

As an aside, the gossip enthusiast in me is also curious about Cruz and Kidman starring in a movie together. Ever since Tom Cruise split with Nicole Kidman and dated Cruz, I always wonder what their interactions are like every time they show up on a magazine cover together. It’s a catty curiosity, but a curiosity nonetheless. I wonder how they would be portrayed in a movie about Tom Cruise’s life, but want very much for this movie not to be made.

Vogue cover girls Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, and Kate Hudson; image courtesy of

Nicole Kidman and Penélope Cruz bookending Vanity Fair's 2001 Hollywood Issue cover; image courtesy of

Whether this movie is good or not remains to be seen. But I know I’ll rent it at some point. This has Sunday afternoon at-home viewing written all over it.


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