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:: Nine

Nine has glamour, just on paper alone. Rome looks fabulous, as does Daniel Day-Lewis, zipping around in his Fiat in dark shades and slicked-back dark hair. But there's no substance beneath the gloss. You’ve got Michael Tolkin, the author of “The Player”, and the late, great Anthony Minghella translating a Broadway classic to the screen - an homage to director Federico Fellini's 8 ½. You’ve got Rob Marshall in the director’s chair, a man who virtually reinvigorated the movie musical right when it was on the very brink of extinction.

Despite the razzle-dazzle, there is a slight lack of substance behind the gorgeous costumes, the singing and the ladies. Day-Lewis is Guido Contini, Italy’s most exciting internationally recognised director. Well, he used to be. As of late, his films haven’t been connecting with audiences like they used to. We meet him and his producer (Ricky Tognazzi) amidst a flurry of press for his latest project and we quickly realise that he’s got no movie to make. That movie would concern the women in his life — mother (Sophia Loren), wife (Marion Cotillard), muse (Nicole Kidman), mistress (Penélope Cruz), reporter (Kate Hudson), colleague (Dame Judi Dench) and whore (Fergie).

To Marshall's credit, despite some limitations at his disposal, the movie looks stunning and if nothing else, it makes one want to climb into a time machine and be taken back to 1965 Rome.

Each woman in the cast gets to sing their song one by one and each one sings of how their lives have been changed by Contini, be that good or bad. As we never get to see these characters for who they are but rather just through the eyes of Contini himself, they seem to be merely supporting players. The women are oozing charisma in exhibiting their sassy delight through song. Fergie sells hers big time (“Be Italian”) - the pick of all the songs. Dench is a quick-witted delight. Cruz does wonders as the mistress, sizzling in a rope dance. Marion Cotillard bares her soul in “My Husband Makes Movies” and her body in “Take It All”. As Marshall gathers his cast together for a finale with cinematographer Dion Beebe, costume whiz Colleen Atwood and production designer John Myhre working at their highest capacity, Nine fires on all cylinders.

Daniel Day-Lewis, as Guido, provides an impressive transformation into this Italian director so obsessed with himself that he doesn’t even have any idea what to do next. But, like the rest of the film, the most extraordinary moments for Day-Lewis come when he is singing, particularly the early number “Guido’s Song.”

Overall, Nine is filled with treats for the eye and ear, because in the end Marshall is no slouch in the talent department. When the film is fulfilling its duties as a musical, it's terrific. The songs, however, are in service of a lesser script and story. Without them, the picture would crumble under heavy pretenses. It's a vibrant and eccentric film that ultimately plays like a musical number with a step or two that's a bit off and a note or two that's out of tune, but what does work far outweighs a few missed beats.