How can a movie starring six Academy Award-winning actors be such a bore?
With Nine, Chicago director Rob Marshall manages this feat. But whatever blame one might be tempted to lay on him, the fault lies in the play. If you've ever seen this navel-gazing stage musical inspired by Fellini's navel-gazing filmmaker-in-crisis film, 81/2, you know this movie would be tough going.
Casting mostly non-singers to do the clever but forgettable songs doesn't help --- even if they are Daniel Day-Lewis, Sophia Loren, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson and Nicole Kidman (at least the last two have musical experience).
In 1960s Rome, Guido (Day-Lewis, Oscar winner for My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood) is a filmmaking legend about to shoot the movie he hopes will end a run of flops. But he has no script. He is blocked. Only an escape to a distant spa will help --- except his troubles chase him there.
His wife (Cotillard, Oscar for La Vie en Rose) used to be his muse. His dim-but-sexy mistress (Cruz, Oscar for Vicky Cristina Barcelona) is no help. His leading lady (Kidman, Oscar for The Hours) is pressing him. He's tempted by the sexy Vogue reporter (Hudson, Oscar nominee for Almost Famous). His costume designer (Judi Dench, terrific, Oscar for Shakespeare in Love) is his scold.
So much stress, so many women tugging at his suave coat sleeves. He complains to the ghost of his dead mama (Loren, Oscar for Two Women), to his producer, to a priest and even a cardinal.
And he sings. Not a great idea.
Thank God for Fergie. The pop singer plays the small-town floozie who exposed young Guido to the mysteries of female flesh (in a flashback), and she tears up the show-stopper Be Italian. Dench acquits herself well in a Marlene Dietrich-esque memory song, Folies Bergere. Cruz vamps temptingly, Hudson rips up a go-go number (Cinema Italiano) and Kidman doesn't embarrass herself on a ballad.
But the women are here to wear bustiers and pose, with only rare moments suggesting each one's humanity. Day-Lewis smokes a lot, looks good in retro sunglasses and suits. He makes little impression beyond the first one. There's little humor, no heart and precious little "angst" to his predicament --- luring and using women. But then, nobody will be crying at Tiger Woods: The Opera, either.