What Went Wrong: Nine
By Shalimar Sahota
April 28, 2011
This will go into a few spoilers, so if you haven’t seen Nine, then you might be better off watching 8 1/2 instead.
With Rob Marshall directing another musical, everyone was expecting the next Chicago. Then there was the roster of Academy Award winning talent involved - Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Jude Dench, Nicole Kidman and Sophia Loren. “You’ll see a lot of nominations,” said producer Harvey Weinstein. “We won the Oscar for Chicago. Hopefully we’ll get in the arena again.” Unfortunately, the film garnered only four Oscar nominations and five Golden Globe nominations, which ended up looking like undeserved pity just to make up the numbers. It won none, and was not a box office hit, either.
Based on an award winning Broadway musical, itself loosely based on Fellini’s 8 1/2, Nine was funded by Relativity Media and The Weinstein Company. It was adapted for the screen by Michael Tolkin, known for scripting The Player. “Michael's unique understanding of show business and the creative process will help create a clever and sexy film,” said Weinstein. Anthony Minghella did a rewrite on Tolkin’s script before he passed away. Marshall, with his background in theatre and as a choreographer, directed Chicago to a best picture Oscar, so it seemed only fitting to have him take charge. I’ll admit that I’ve not seen the original musical, but I couldn’t help but feel that the film plays like a cut down version of it.
Nine had a production budget of $80 million. The Weinstein Company distributed the film in the US, starting with a limited release on four screens on December 18, 2009 (it was originally set to open for Thanksgiving on November 25th). The film earned a good $257,000. The following weekend, it opened wide (at a still relatively low 1,412 locations). It charted at #8 with $5.4 million. Making just $19.6 million at the US box office, it took $34.2 million overseas resulting in an overall worldwide total of $53 million. The film had flopped. Even Marshall’s previous film, Memoirs of a Geisha, opened higher and earned far more. The Weinstein Company sold the foreign distribution rights, but whatever they got from it couldn’t have been enough, for once January came around, they eventually had to lay off a few people.
Chicago managed to make scandal and murder look fun and exciting when translated to the big screen. Nine, on the other hand, is far more serious. This is a story about a director whose marriage and movie is in crisis. Set in Italy, 1965, a world famous film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) announces at a press conference the commencement of his new film, Italia. While there’s a title, a starring role for his muse Claudia and costumes being designed, what he doesn’t let on is that the film doesn’t have a script written. Amid the stress, Guido struggles with the numerous women who have left a mark on his life, and slowly heads towards a complete breakdown.