ANYONE WITH A FONDNESS for big-budget musicals (hi, ladies and gays!) has likely been anticipating Nine. A new musical from Chicago director Rob Marshall, with source material once again ripped straight from Broadway—in this case, 1982's multiple Tony-winner—Nine is the story of talented, tortured movie director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), a celebrity of Spielbergian proportions in his native Italy (Nine is based, in fact, on Frederico Fellini's semi-autobiographical 8½). It's a story of the "women behind the man"—more precisely, of the myopia and vanity that lead one man to frame his life with himself in the foreground.
Guido is behind deadline and struggling to begin his newest project, which he conceives as a film about the women who made the men who made Italy. He himself is surrounded by women, pampered and seduced as he's been all his life—there's his wife (the always-excellent Marion Cotillard); his mistress (Penélope Cruz, smokin' as usual); his mother (Sophia Loren); a lusty American journalist (Kate Hudson, the one actress in this film who truly can't sing). After betraying first his wife and then his mistress, he's eventually forced to recognize that these women are more than just set pieces.
So: A little schadenfreude, a little dancing—Nine should be a lush, lavish pleasure (it features, after all, Penélope Cruz in some very sexy underwear). But Daniel Day-Lewis can't quite endow his character with the charisma to compensate for his shoddy behavior; as the film gives cursory attention to each of the women in Guido's life, it's hard to understand why any of them put up with him. Plus, there's a truly horrible scene in which Fergie, playing a prostitute living in a shack by the sea, does a sandy whore-dance (I was going to call this scene "career destroying," but then I remembered Fergie once peed her pants onstage). Throw in a muted color palette that occasionally drifts into black-and-white, and the end result is drab, overlong, and distinctly un-fabulous.