Director Rob Marshall and much of his starry cast walked the red carpet in London last night for the world premiere of Nine, an adaptation of the musical by Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston which opened on Broadway in 1982 and which, you'll have heard, is loosely based on Federico Fellini's 8½ (1963). Tim Teeman was there for the Times: "If you haven't seen or don't know the original musical, and if you are seduced by the spectacular trailers, you might expect Nine to be a glittering cavalcade of frouffed and bouffed leading ladies (Penélope Cruz and Nicole Kidman among them), prowling slinkily around leading man Daniel Day-Lewis. But Nine is one of those rare things: a sombre musical, as gritty as it is glittery."
Day-Lewis is cast "unexpectedly - and brilliantly - as the crisis-plagued Guido Contini, who has a movie due to start shooting in ten days," writes Matt Wolf in the Telegraph. "The problem? Not only has Guido yet to write a single word of the script, but he is juggling the increasingly clamorous demands of various women, ranging from his mother (an impossibly elegant Sophia Loren) to Carla, his mistress (Penélope Cruz, all long, writhing legs and frayed nerves).... Its narrative bolstered by screenwriters Michael Tolkin and the late Anthony Minghella, the film for all its flights of carnal fancy sweeps us into Guido's protracted nervous breakdown."
Not only is Nine "a savvy piece of musical filmmaking," its cast "could scarcely be bettered," finds Variety's Todd McCarthy. "Not only can they act, but Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson and Sophia Loren can sing.... Cutting between black-and-white and color in the musical numbers and, like Fellini's film, constantly on the move as Guido is buffeted about with scarcely a moment to breathe, much less write a script, Nine takes the the matter of directile dysfunction seriously without being pretentious about it. With the distance of 45 years, the glory days of Italian filmmaking are depicted more for their chaotic fun than for their grave chic or philosophical import, and the double delight for the cast to be working in both a musical and a picture set in such a fabled era (one known personally among the cast members only by Loren) plainly shows in their spirited performances."
"One wonders to what extent the existential crises of a filmmaker will capture the popular imagination, but one admires Marshall and especially his leading man Day-Lewis for not just paying lip-service to the more serious, tragic themes at the heart of Nine," writes Time Out London's Dave Calhoun. "That said, Marshall never lingers long on a downer: there's always a rousing number round the corner.... When you leave the cinema, it's not art that's on the mind. It's sex and style."
But for the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt, the "disappointments are many here, from a starry cast the film ill uses to flat musical numbers that never fully integrate into the dramatic story. The only easy prediction is that Nine is not going to revive the slumbering musical film genre.... Marshall's previous film musical Chicago did win the Oscar for best film, but you wonder why when the musical numbers were all pieced together in such tiny cuts you rarely caught anybody singing or dancing for more than a moment. Marshall is up to old tricks here as the numbers are all a matter of edits, zooms and multiple angles."
"Nine is a movie with two memorable songs, performances that are routinely better than what the performers were given to perform, a problematically intense but not charming performance at the center, and most painfully, a lack of basic storytelling," finds David Poland.
"Nine will open wide in America on Christmas Day, and it is certain to be a major contender in the Oscar race," predicted David Thomson in the Guardian just over a week ago. The title of his piece: "The significance of Nine for Anthony Minghella's legacy." Last night, Marshall paid tribute to Minghella to whom the film is dedicated. Thomson: "We all of us miss him and his talk and his friendship, and I daresay that many will fall upon Nine with all the more interest in that it may be his last word. Which is why I want to say that this is a very poignant, fragile movie about a man, Guido, who becomes a nearly Dracula-like womaniser in Day-Lewis's great performance.... I found Nine a very moving film. I'm not sure if the public will take it to their hearts."
The Guardian's got a gallery of photos snapped at the premiere; the BBC's got video.
Updates, 12/5: "Breezily superficial and emotionally hollow, it steers well clear of the surreal self-examination of its seminal source movie 8½ and works best as a slick music video-styled spectacle of retro Italia," finds Screen's Mike Goodridge.
At Hitfix, Gregory Ellwood writes up a list: "What's wrong and what's right with Nine."
David Ehrenstein's seen it, "quite enjoyed it," and has opened a topic for discussing it.
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