Popped my musical cherry with Nine

Daniel Day-Lewis, NineI actually saw this movie over a week ago, but I haven’t felt much like blogging lately. I meant to talk about this though. It was the first musical I ever really sat through, so this is a momentous occasion! I did see some of Phantom of the Opera and it was great but I didn’t finish it. Therefore, it doesn’t count as the first. Well, I did see Moulin Rouge, but I don’t really count that as a musical for some reason.

Seeing Nine was part of my quest to catch up on the Daniel Day-Lewis movies I haven’t seen yet. I was supposed to see it opening weekend in the theater like I usually do with his movies since The Last of the Mohicans (let’s all pause and think fondly upon Hawkeye) but I was very, very sick during the holidays of 2009. My mother and uncles went without me. I still haven’t forgiven them. After that, I just never got around to seeing it until now. Nine was Daniel’s last movie before making Lincoln. So he went from Guido Contini to Abraham Lincoln in three years.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, Nine is a musical about an Italian film director (Guido) who is basically on a downward spiral into an emotional and mental breakdown. He used to be revolutionary, highly praised, and is something of a legend, but he is facing writers block and dealing with juggling a wife and as many mistresses as he can handle. As it turns out, he’s not the young man he used to be, and he is starting to witness the breakdown of his wife as well as the breakdown of his primary mistress. He’s completely incapable of taking responsibility for anything, including the fact that he is making a movie that isn’t even written yet. As the story progresses, he is slowly losing everything, including his mind, and finally it all comes to ahead, making him finally understand the responsibility in himself for everything that has gone wrong. By the time he realizes exactly how much everything is his fault, it’s too late. He’s lost everything and has to rebuild his entire life from the ground up.

The film, to me, is really just about the deconstruction and reconstruction of a man. Misery is largely of our own creation and when we get down far enough, we can’t see that it’s our own fault anymore, so we blame everyone and everything around us. Those are the times when we have to be completely deconstructed and rebuilt as if beginning life all over again, shedding all of the material acquisitions, greed, and immoral behavior to be better people. Some people, like Guido, are so resistant to self-accountability that they have to be deconstructed to the point of being nothing more than a shell of a human before they can begin to rebuild.

As I remember, Nine got mixed reviews. A lot of people didn’t like it and I suppose I’m in no position of authority to say whether it’s good or bad because I’m not educated in musicals, but I personally liked it. I saw a lot of press about it beforehand and all of the actors were clearly nervous about not being professional singers and dancers (except Fergie) so that changed the way I watched it. Daniel said no matter how things went, he would always remember the amazing experience of making such a movie. He prefers string women and so he enjoyed working with all of those strong women in it. So maybe it doesn’t really matter if it was received by critics as disappointing because the actors clearly worked hard in a genre not their own and they enjoyed the experience.

As I said, I didn’t find the movie disappointing at all. I enjoyed it. Daniel has a tendency of playing roles that involve infidelity and having women he shouldn’t have, so that part of it wasn’t new to me. What was new was seeing him in clearly choreographed situations. That was a little foreign to him and you can see that on screen. The way he was trained as an actor was to approach every take as a new experience, so being restricted by choreography made his movements a little awkward at times.

His singing was better than I expected though and he clearly worked hard to find his singing voice. The director said he was very insecure about having to sing and was trying to find ways to quit at different times. Once he walked into Fergie rehearsing Be Italian and his response was, “Can I go home now?” Obviously he didn’t quit but I daresay this night have been his most terrifying role yet. I would be terrified to sing and dance in a musical. He did find a way to sort of speak his lyrics instead of fully singing them but I also think he was too hard on himself because his voice is not terrible at all. People just seem to balk at him doing a musical because we always see him doing heavy drama like Hawkeye or Bill the Butcher. It is hard to imagine Hawkeye singing his way through 1757 or Bill singing his way through 1863. So I think even if Nine was the best musical ever made, Daniel would never have been received well in that type of role because it’s so far removed from the way we’ve come to know him.

The clip has Russian subtitles. Sorry.

Speaking of the women in the movie, I know there was a big deal about Nicole Kidman being in it but I found her to be entirely forgettable. I couldn’t even give you the tune of the song she performed. There was absolutely no chemistry between Nicole and Daniel, in my opinion, so it was a blessing that her part was so small. Of all the women, I would say the strongest voices were Fergie, Kate Hudson, and Penelope Cruz. My favorite number of the whole movie was A Call to the Vatican. I have no idea why other than it’s fun and it got stuck in my head for a long time.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Marion Cotillard was absolutely stunning. She blew me away. But then again, she always does. I see her the way I see actresses of the golden age of Hollywood. I have never been disappointed by any of her movies so far. Marion played Guido’s suffering wife in Nine and she got me to hate him through her eyes. Even when Daniel plays villains, I’m still all, “Yay Daniel!” but Marion enduring Guido and slowly breaking down made me feel her exhaustion, exasperation, and hateful love toward him. She wasn’t the best singer in the cast either but without Daniel and Marion, I don’t think the story would have worked on film. There has to be more to a musical than singing to work.

See the movie if you get the chance. In order to see it though, you have to be able to forget all of Daniel’s big dramatic work and take Nine for what it is. Otherwise you’re not going to see what he was trying to do as Guido. I enjoyed it and I think most people would too.

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