Movie Review: Nine- A Superficial Musical Spectacle Lacking the Depth of its Adapted Source

It’s an unmistakable quality in director Rob Marshall that allows him to make spectacles of images. The flash and grandeur of each sequence can make you believe that you are seeing something magical or even something enjoyable. But unfortunately Rob Marshall’s Nine, an adaptation from a musical adaptation of Frederico Fellini’s masterpiece 8 ½, is a film that distances itself from it’s main character losing the entire charm, surrealism, and depth that Fellini’s autobiographical picture successfully accomplished. While Nine theoretically balances the protagonist’s real world with his fantasy and memory it is done at a superficial level for elaborate musical interludes rather than being able to feel Guido Anselmi’s various and accumulating problems. That is the crushing flaw of Nine and it’s feeling the character’s emotions, perceptions, and struggles rather than just simply viewing them in choreographed spectacles. Most of the characters are undeveloped and the others aren’t quite given much to do. From the pompous opening and overture to the contrite musical interludes Nine just isn’t an exciting nor emotional cinematic experience but rather a bland yet flashy film that has little to no depth. Luckily the musical pieces get better as the film progresses but the acting is sub par at best especially given the talents of the cast. 8 ½ was a film that Fellini felt from the inside out and it appears Rob Marshall couldn’t quite comprehend this depth in order to make the audience feel something that personal as he gives us more glamor than insight.

Nine, as stated earlier, is taken from the Broadway musical of the same name that was adapted from Italian film director extraordinaire Frederico Fellini’s 8 ½. It deals with some complex subjects such as creative struggle in the film director’s writing block and moves throughout his subjective and moral ambiguities in relation to his imagination and memory. In the main role of Nine is the usually excellent Daniel Day-Lewis who does emote suffering rather well (albeit in a quite strange Italian slanted English) but lacks the essence of the original actor who played Guido Anselmi that made the character such an irresistible mess. Marcello Mastroianni was remarkable in his performance for he accentuated subtlety in order to nuance the audience into his subjective experience of dreams, imagination, and memory. Daniel Day-Lewis, while having an interesting sort of charm, acts as more of a performer than an expressive essence which is something that is supposed to hinge all of the dynamic relationships together through Guido Contini (renamed the protagonist for the musical version). Throughout the film there are numerous female relationships that Guido must confront and inevitably dissolve some of them, which include his wife, mistress, mother, an American journalist, costume designer, and even a childhood memory of a whore he once danced with. Not every talented actress chosen for these various roles work well but one thing is for certain when dealing with a Rob Marshall film and that is it’s definitely flashy and superficially charming in story and performance.

Most audience members who have Nine on their radar to see in the theaters will most likely be musical lovers and granted the film might be enjoyable for that sort of entertainment. However, the progression of the film musically is what saves it from becoming unquestionably dull since the musical pieces that open the film aren’t particularly interesting, well sung, or have engaging choreography visually. Take the opening song from Daniel Day-Lewis who haphazardly makes his way through each tune barely being able to hold a note or the tune itself. The emotion is greatly felt in his gestures and exaggerations but as the song goes it isn’t too soft on the ears. Unlike Chicago, where the jazz undertones made the music stand out, Nine doesn’t have too much of a direct influence in its music that is obvious and sounds as though it’s quite generic. Certain songs are better than others with the best being from Marion Cotillard and surprisingly Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie. But in all of its splendor in song and grandeur in presentation Nine seems as though it’s nothing more than an average stage show watching the events unfold rather than being connected to them and experiencing the characters own difficulties. The problem with presenting expression through song is that sometimes the film becomes overt in its intention instead of engaging the audience to seek out the intricacies of the film themselves.

With all of the acting talent on the screen, including four academy award winners and one nominee, you might expect the film to be quite a feat in acting capabilities. This remains to be accomplished since the characters are so thinly developed that very rarely do the roles become interesting or worth the overall ticket price. Nicole Kidman and Judi Dench give acceptable performances but never really become more than just average when compared to their known accredited work. Some better examples of sympathetic acting comes from Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard who are the victims to the behavior of Guido and is resonantly felt through their songs but more through their select scenes of dialogue. But one actress that is out of place and obviously so is Kate Hudson, who has a boring anti-climactic song and a character that is flat and uninventive. Most of these women, who have pleasing bodies, are flaunted around as objects to coincide with Guido’s fantasy world, which would make them sympathetic characters if it weren’t for the superficial style of the film accentuating that objectifying atmosphere. There are times the performances become worth watching but overall it doesn’t save the film from its lack of exploratory depth.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Nine falls short in comparison to it’s adapted source considering that Fellini made an autobiographical piece with 8 ½ in order to reflect his own personal feelings and flaws. Rob Marshall hasn’t made an exceptional film but films that have exceptional color and splendor and has done this better in Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha. Nine is an average musical film that has more flash than depth and more style than substance but is filmed in a pompous fashion where the director is stating that there is quality where there is none. It lacks the ingenious balance of surrealism and objective struggle by substituting quality dialogue and performance for musical spectacle, which loses much of the potential depth it could have. For those looking for a decently catchy musical in a film world where the musical has been left in the wasteland than be sure to see it to fulfill your appreciation for the style. But even then this film falls short of the musical genre’s ability to have quality delivery mostly thanks to Rob Marshall’s superficial directing style who couldn’t possibly fathom the personal creative struggle a genius such as Fellini endured.

Grade: C

2 Responses to “Movie Review: Nine- A Superficial Musical Spectacle Lacking the Depth of its Adapted Source”
  1. Juan Carlos says:

    Out of all the pictures you could have used for Penelope Cruz, I wonder why you decided on that one. Not that I am complaining. : -)

  2. blubbalips says:

    I agree!! Shallow and distanced are definitely the right words!! I was blown away by Marion Cotillard though!! I thought she was quite spectacular!! Check out my review at!!

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