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The Nines (2007)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 1/29/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/22/2008
I'm intelligent and mature enough (although many would argue with that second statement) to know that every movie isn't going to be exactly what I want it to be. If so, every movie would be about talking cats and explosions. But, I do what I can to find things that I like in every movie that I see. Some movies begin doing down a path that I like, but then change directions. The Nines is a perfect example of this, as I loved the first half of the film, but the second half didn't go where I wanted it to...and there definitely weren't any talking cats.
The Nines is a trilogy (of sorts), with Ryan Reynolds playing the main character in each segment. In the first chapter, entitled "The Prisoner", Reynolds plays Gary Banks, a television actor who has a breakdown following the break up with his girlfriend. After some shenanigans, Gary is arrested and bailed out by his publicist, Margaret (Melissa McCarthy). He is taken to the house of a writer who is out of town, and told to lay low. (He's on house arrest.) Trapped in the house, Gary is very bored and begins to hear strange sounds. He meets his neighbor, a bored housewife named Sarah (Hope Davis), who immediately comes onto him -- in a very strong way. As things around Gary begin to swirl out of control, he begins to see the number 9 everywhere. The second part, "Reality Television" focuses on the writer whose house was used in "The Prisoner". Gavin (Reynolds) has his big break as the network has produced his new TV show, Knowing. Due to this, Gavin is followed by a reality TV crew who are making a behind-the-scenes special. Gavin is especially excited about the show as he's able to cast his friend Melissa McCarthy (played by Melissa McCarthy). The pressure begins to mount on Gavin and he doesn't like the direction in which studio executive Susan (Davis) wants to take the show. Gavin is forced to choose between his priorities and business. The final chapter, "Knowing", has Reynolds playing Gabriel, a video game designer. While on an outing with his wife (McCarthy) and their daughter (Elle Fanning), their car won't start. When Gabriel goes for help, he meets a mysterious woman named Sierra who recognizes him and appears to have a hidden agenda.
To say that The Nines is an unusual film would be an understatement. The film comes from writer John August, who made his named with scripts like Go, Big Fish, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here, he is making his directorial debut, and unlike some of his other films (like Charlie's Angels), The Nines is very philosophical, introspective, and auto-biographical.
Along with the fact that The Nines encompasses three different stories, the movie plays like three different movies. As I'm a fan of mindf&*% movies, I really enjoyed "The Prisoner" and it gave me high hopes for the film. We witness Gary drink and use drugs, and we are left to wonder if the odd occurrences around him are real, or simply a side effect of his vices. But, the visual and auditory hallucinations are quite specific, and the audience assumes that we know what is happening. "Reality Television" echoes some of these cues, and by this point, I felt that I had somewhat of a handle on what was going on in the movie. However, in the middle of this segment, the movie begins to turn away from a reality-warping movie into more of a straight paranoid thriller. The feel of the film is altered even further in the third act, where it becomes more of a straight-ahead thriller, until the final reveal, which ties all three stories together, comes along. I'm not sure if the shifting tones were mean to keep the viewer on edge, but for me, it gave the movie a disjointed feel, and to be honest, my interest waned after the first segment.
As noted above, the purpose of the three segments is explained at the end of the film. Needless to say, there is a big twist what all of these people have in common. This twist is really going to divide audiences. In all fairness, the twist is an original one. Those who have grown tired of the "it was all a dream" or "he's been dead the whole time" movies may get a kick out of the ending of The Nines. The problem is that while it's clever, it's not completely satisfying. You will immediately begin to question everything which came before, and close inspection does reveal some plot holes in the film. (August addresses some of these questions on the audio commentary.) Although, there are one or two clues which made me nod my head in admiration. For me, the ending robs the first half of the film of its power and mystery.
The questionable ending isn't the only problem with the film. The movie really drags in the middle, as we follow TV writer Gavin through his daily life. This segment is based on August's real-life experiences working in TV, and this will be evident to anyone who watches The Nines. This portion is so auto-biographical that it becomes somewhat tedious and uncomfortable.
The issues with the script are nearly offset by the enthusiasm of the cast. Ryan Reynolds is forced to show depth here as he plays three totally different characters. While the "Gary" character feels more like the comedic Reynolds to which we are accustomed, the second two are very different, and it's good to see him taking a chance. In contrast, the three characters which Hope Davis plays are all very intense women, she merely fluctuates the kind of power which they wield. Melissa McCarthy, who was great onGilmore Girls, is very good here as she brings her natural energy to each part.
I love paranoid mystery thrillers which have twist endings, but I found The Nines unsatisfying. But, the film must contain some sort of power, as my wife and I discussed it for several days afterward. (Mostly consisting of questions about how the ending fit with the rest of the film.) The movie features an original twist ending which tries to do something different, but the overall package simply doesn't add up.
The Nines takes a number on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fairly good, as the picture is sharp and clear. There is no distracting grain or defects from the source material. The colors look fine and the image is never too dark or too bright. I did notice that some shots lacked in detail and there was some obvious artifacting at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This film features a menagerie of off-screen sound effects, and multiple musical cues, and they sound very good. The stereo channels are utilized to an extent, as are the surround sound speakers. I didn't note any scenes with notable subwoofer effects.
The Nines contains seven bonus features. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from writer/director John August and star Ryan Reynolds. This commentary was originally recorded to be downloaded as a podcast and used by listeners seeing the film in a theater. Despite these unusual circumstances, this is a good track as August describes the story and the shooting of the film, while Reynolds talks about his experiences on-set. Next, we have a commentary with August, editor Douglas Crise, and star Melissa McCarthy. Surprisingly, this is very similar to the first track, as August and Crise give technical details, while McCarthy talks about her roles and what it was like to work with the other actors. Unfortunately, August repeats some of the tidbits from the first track here. The DVD contains nine (!) DELETED SCENES which can be viewed with commentary by August and Crise and run about 13 minutes. Most of these come from the first chapter and only two would have actually added to the story. The "original ending" featured here is far from satisfying. "Script to Storyboard to Screen Comparison" (5 minutes) shows the movie and the storyboards side-by-side, as the script scrolls by in the background. This is done for the opening segment of the movie. "Summing up The Nines" (14 minutes) is a making-of featurette which features comments from August, the cast, and the producers. They talk a lot about the story and its meanings, and what it was like to work with one another. The DVD contains August's short film "God" (11 minutes), which can be viewed with commentary by August, Crise, and McCarthy. This is a clever and funny short. The final extra is a "Photo Gallery Slideshow".
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long