Rob Marshall tries to recapture some of the magic of "Chicago" with "Nine," the film version of Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston's 1982 Broadway musical, but is ultimately sabotaged by the thin source material.
At the center of the story is Daniel Day-Lewis playing Guido Contini, a world famous Italian film director who deals with personal and professional crises by turning to the many women in his life. If that plot sounds familiar, that's because it is swiped wholesale from Federico Fellini's much better "8 1/2."
The women who parade through Contini's life and fantasies -- each offering their brutally honest advice while belting out big musical numbers -- are his wife (Marion Cotillard), mistress (Penélope Cruz), mother (Sophia Loren), leading lady (Nicole Kidman), costume designer/confidant (Judi Dench), fondly remembered first sex partner (Fergie) and a novice American reporter (Kate Hudson). Cotillard and Cruz really steal the show here (which isn't hard to do against Day-Lewis' mopey screen presence) and Dench has some nice moments as well. Kidman is bland, Hudson is out of her league, Fergie doesn't do much but sing and dance (thankfully), and frankly I'm not sure how the glorious Loren got through this with a straight face.
The songs are fun but insubstantial, except for Cotillard's great "Take It All," which was written specifically for the film. However, Marshall, cinematographer Dion Beebe and choreographer John Deluca redeem even the weakest numbers with some energetic stagings.
But besides Cotillard and Cruz, the real stars of the show are art directors Simon Lamont, Peter Findley and Phil Harvey, and costume designer Colleen Atwood who create a vibrant, detailed and glamorous simulation of mod 1960s Rome. "Nine" may not have much going on under the surface, but thanks to them it's wonderful to look at.
Cotillard laying it all out for the Oscar-nominated "Take It All."
Oddly enough, the play's title song "Nine" was one of several musical numbers cut from the film.
"8 1/2" (1963), if you want to see this sort of thing done right the first time.
Take a Look:
"Take It All":
The music video for Kate Hudson's "Cinema Italiano":