Rated PG-13; Directed by Rob Marshall; Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Fergie, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson
It is a rare opportunity to see either Sophia Loren or Judi Dench perform a musical number in a movie. To see both of them singing and dancing in one film is a movie miracle. They both appear as two women who have been part of Guido Contini’s life in the movie Nine. Not only Sophia and Judi make an appearance as part of the amazing cast in this film, but so do Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, and the wonderful Marion Cotillard.
Taking place in the mid-1960s, Nine tells the story of an Italian film director, Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), who must come up with a script for the movie he is scheduled to start shooting. As he deals with the pressure, he must also deal with a wife, mistress, actress, and costume designer. If you have seen Fellini’s 8 ½ you know the plot. Made into a Broadway musical in the 1980s, and revived in 2003, the story comes full circle back to the big screen. Directed by Rob Marshall, who made Chicago a big hit, Nine has a great pedigree, but it doesn’t quite entertain as Chicago did.
The entire cast is wonderful to watch, with Marion Cotillard making the role of the betrayed wife an award-worthy performance. Daniel Day-Lewis works hard, but has the worst musical numbers. In fact, the biggest problem of this musical is the lack of great songs. The cast tries hard, but only a few numbers stand out. Singer Fergie gets the best number. Her version of “Be Italian” is the catchiest tune, the most similar to composer Nino Rota’s music from the original Fellini film. Luckily, Fergie can belt it beautifully. Cotillard gets the winsome “My Husband Makes Movies” and Penelope Cruz, playing Guido’s mistress, has the seductive “A Call from the Vatican” number. And yes, it is a strange world when you can watch Dame Judi Dench show off her cleavage as she performs the song, “Folies Bergères.”
Nine does offer some wonderful moments, but the movie loses something with its stagy musical numbers. Director Marshall uses the same trick from Chicago – he has the numbers performed as if part of someone’s imagination. For fans of musicals it is worth seeing, but the movie may not please those who want something upbeat and tuneful. Then again, how often can you see Judi Dench and Sophia Loren singing in the same movie?