Who’s In It: Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Dame Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, and Fergie. Yes, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas.
The Basics: Under extreme pressure and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, celebrated director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) escapes the demands of studio execs, producers, reporters, and his wife (Marion Cotillard) to a quiet resort outside of Rome, where he hopes to write his next film. Only problem is, the film’s already in production with the whole world waiting for his script. When even his trashy mistress (Penelope Cruz) can’t screw him back to normal, Guido begins losing himself in fantasy and memory as the women in his life – his wife, his girlfriend, his mother (Sophia Loren), his muse (Nicole Kidman), his confidante (Dame Judi Dench), a Vogue reporter (Kate Hudson), and the busty prostitute that taught him about love when he was a boy (Fergie) – materialize in his imagination to help him craft his next story, and possibly repair his crumbling personal life.
What’s The Deal: It’s obvious Rob Marshall has love for the Broadway version of 8 1/2, but he’s no Fellini. His lightweight adaptation of an adaptation doesn’t do justice to either the show or the film that came before, mostly because Marshall doesn’t have a clue as to how to pull off such an abstract narrative. Set primarily on the Cinecitta soundstage where Guido stares into a half-constructed set, waiting for inspiration to strike in the form of imagined dance numbers (and a lot of what Rachel from Glee would call “hairography”), Nine fails to mesh as it flits from Guido’s memories and fantasies to his clueless, real-life wanderings. Even worse, Daniel Day-Lewis is too aloof to curry sympathy for the philandering, lying, and cheating director. If Nine were a horror movie, the spectral ghosts of the women he’d burned would pounce on him and tear him to pieces, damning him to an eternity of watching Fergie and an army of backup hoofers dance aggressively on chairs and throw sand in the air.
The Worst Number In The Entire Film: Actually, they all sound pretty much the same. But the musical number that feels the wrongest is a new one sung by Kate Hudson, whose role as a slutty Vogue reporter was created just to add star wattage to the film. As she assaults your senses in a sparkly tassel dress and go-go boots with “Cinema Italiano,” a glitzy Euro pop ditty straight out of the dressing rooms at your local Express, take the opportunity to go on your mid-movie popcorn run. You’ll keep your sanity that way.
Who Gets Points For Trying: Marion Cotillard, who won an Oscar two years ago as French songstress Edith Piaf in La vie en rose, brings a quiet rage as Guido’s long-suffering wife, whose final outburst will have you cheering, “You go, girl!” Penelope Cruz, who won an Oscar for playing another crazy girlfriend in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, rocks a leggy wardrobe that consists mainly of lace teddies and fishnets and coos her way through a seductive phone sex number. That you wind up feeling sorry for both women in Guido’s life is a testament to both Cotillard and Cruz’s performances, and the overriding douchiness of the man they love.