It took long enough, but I finally saw Nine this week. I had been uber excited to see it for a good 6 months, only to have my hopes dashed by the critics panning the film. Nevertheless, I held on to some hope. After all, the critics tend to be extra harsh on musicals. Sadly, the critics were being too kind, as the first thing from my lips as I left the cinema were “Rob Marshall must hate women!”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the stage show, I’ve seen Fellini’s 8 1/2 (the 1963 film which Nine is based on), so I knew there were misogynistic undertones. I understood that all the women were either whores, virgins, or mothers to Guido (Daniel Day-Lewis). However, nothing could prepare me for the sexist changes Marshall’s team made to the original script. This film, and his earlier work which focused on weak (Memoirs of a Geisha 2005) and stupid (Chicago 2002) women, leads me to believe he just hates women.
Let’s begin with the biggest travesty of the film: Lilli. In the film, Lilli (Judi Dench) is Guido’s sounding board, a maternal figure, a former member of the Folies Bergére, and the costumer/make up artist for his films. However, in the stage version, she is still the voice of reason, but also his producer. SAY WHAT? You’ve got to be kidding, women don’t know how to produce films. Guido would never be subordinate to a woman. No, no, we must change this! Let’s make this old woman in charge of making younger, better looking women even more beautiful. Ah, yes, that’s better. Now, let’s add insult to injury and keep the producer, but change it to a chauvinist man, who wants to Guido to cast his sexy, nubile mistress in the film. If someone can give me one good reason they stripped Lilli of her title, hats off to you. In the meantime, let’s move on to Luisa.
According to my understanding, in the stage production, Luisa and Guido visit the spa together in a last-ditch attempt to fix their floundering marriage. In the film, Guido runs away from the film studio to hide out at the spa. Luisa (Marrion Cotillard) doesn’t even physically enter the spa until 30 minutes into the film. Much like Lilli, Luisa’s stripped of any strength and agency. She comes when Guido calls, (well, actually she comes when Lilli calls as Guido tells her not to come so he can get with his mistress), sings a song, puts up with his crap then finally leaves him–only to return in an ambiguous ending that leads the audience to think she might forgive him for his betrayal. The basic story character arch is there, but any sympathy for her is missing.
In the same boat is Carla (Penelope Cruz), his long-term mistress, who decides to take a bunch of pills in hopes to end her life when Guido ends their relationship. Once again, that’s the movie’s version. In the play, she takes action, she divorces her husband and rushes to tell Guido they can be together, only to be ignored and rejected by him. She comes to her senses and leaves him as well. I realize the story is about these women being obsessed with a man, but why did Carla have to attempt suicide? Why can’t she develop from the stereotypical mistress, to a woman who finally realizes she can be on her own?* Furthermore, why did Marshall and company strip the script of any character development?
I could handle the rest of this crap, if Guido at least matured as he does on stage. After all the women leave him, he contemplates suicide but finally his 9-year-old self comes in, convinces him it’s time to grow up (song: “Getting Tall”) and Guido can finally get back to work. Once again, Marshall gives us nothing. Guido disappears for a few years comes back, and finally can get to work, but does he really mature? Does he make any amends? Does he realize he’s a jack ass? Of course not, because he’s Italian!
Apologies are in order, this “review” has become more of a bitter rant. I really, really, really tried to keep it together, even waited a few days to let my blood cool, but it hasn’t worked. I could go on about how they cut important songs (see “Be On Your Own” and “Getting Tall”), cut a major female character altogether, or completely WASTED Sophia Loren, but that would lead to a hole in the wall and my fist bleeding. Instead, I’ll end this on a happy note, and I’ll share with you what I did like about Nine:
Saraghina**. She’s a whore. She owns it. The End.
Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: A bunch of Oscar winners/nominees that were hired to add street cred to this hot mess.
*Be On Your Own is actually one of the big numbers from the stage play and a major theme in Guido’s developing maturity in the course of the musical.
**Played by Fergie (aka Stacy Ferguson), but mainly because I love her song and I love this clip from the original