Let’s not dance around it: Nine—the film adaptation of the stage musical based on Federico Fellini’s 8—is a dud. As creativity-deprived Italian filmmaker Guido Contini, an incredibly miscast Daniel Day-Lewis reprises his Daniel Plainview rasp and stumbles about like a nicotine-dependent Hunchback of Notre Dame. He calls upon various muses to grant him much-needed inspiration, all of them either mothers (Sophia Loren, Judi Dench) or whores (Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson, Penlope Cruz) with a poorly photographed number to perform. (Though anyone who’s ever wanted to see Dench in bosom-highlighting Folies Bergre finery should be fully gratified. Granny’s got perk.)
The same sub-Fosse cutting that undid director Rob Marshall’s Oscar-winning Chicago resurfaces here: Every musical number is edited so haphazardly that any and all expressiveness is lost in a discontinuous swirl of blinding spotlights, bright colors and perspective-obliterating whip-pans. It’s a migraine-inducing maelstrom (the nadir being Kate Hudson’s fashion-runway Beyonc burlesque, “Cinema Italiano”), yet rising above it all is the superb Marion Cotillard, who plays Guido’s long-suffering wife, Luisa, with a gravitas that this overblown Broadway bauble hardly deserves.
Marshall likely knew what he had in Cotillard, since she gets the movie’s two most distinctive songs—the introspective lament “My Husband Makes Movies” and the kiss-off striptease “Take It All.” She’s incredible in both numbers, but even more so in the nonmusical scenes in which her character’s grief and rage at Guido’s constant manipulation cut painfully deep. She’s the only truly believable muse; the other performers simply come off as exaggerated waxworks or (in Loren and Nicole Kidman’s cases) embalmed corpses wheeled out for impotent symbolism.—Keith Uhlich
Opens Fri 18; Clearview Ziegfeld. Find showtimes
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Nine bizarre musicals you should see instead of Nine