I've heard from two readers who saw Nine (the musical!) at two different test screenings and I thought it was time to share their reactions.
The first to write me (test screener #1) saw what might have been an earlier cut in the summer. The second (test screener #2), whom I've met and who looooves musicals, saw it this past Monday. I didn't ask them to do this but they both divided their thoughts by actor, so let's take it that way. Neither of them gave many details about the songs that have been cut and added but I've been alarmed to read elsewhere about the multiple changes, including switching characters on key songs and the removal of "Nine". It's the title song, people! How can you go without? But the movie doesn't open until November 25th so perhaps they're still tinkering.
The lucky bastards disagree on Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role of the blocked film director
Test Screener #1: Great in this film. He can sing, he can dance, and he brings out nuances in Guido Contini I didn't know existed from the stageplay.But what about the glamourous actresses swirling around him? Both readers jump to Judi Dench next and here they also disagree.
Test Screener #2: DDL is typically good, but it's certainly one of his weaker efforts. He'll likely be in the hunt since he's the lead and I imagine the film to go over well with AMPAS, so I'd keep him in the top 10 tier for now, but I'm sure that you've been right all along - he won't be nominated.
TS #1: She's terrific. Her "Follies Bergeres" is well sung with style, presence, wit, and a gleam in her eye. She looks killer in a bodice, too. It's her sass-mouthed wry Queen Elizabeth from Shakespeare in Love blessed with magical sewing fingers and a 1960s bob. Consider her a contender in Supporting Actress if the film breaks out in a big way.Split decisions again.
TS#2: Dench is fine but nothing remarkable. I know she has been nominated for unremarkable work in the past, but her character and screen time are too limited to warrant a nomination. I'd take her out of the top 10, or at least keep her near the bottom.
Rob Marshall directing two of the best screen actors on the planet --->
Both movie mad guys shrug off TFE favorite Nicole Kidman as the visiting movie star Claudia. I knew that the role wouldn't be large having seen both Fellini's masterpiece and the stage musical it inspired but I always spark to the possibilities of any Kidman appearance. Hopefully I'll feel differently when I see the film.
TS #1: Gets to look pretty in a dress. And not move her forehead.In the stage play Claudia sings the best song "In a Very Unusual Way" (previous post) but perhaps Kidman has the same problem here that I pointed to when writing about her ballad in Moulin Rouge! In short, she isn't a born/trained singer and slow emotionally intricate numbers only come off spectacularly if the performer is a musical professional. It's the danger of casting for stardom rather than musical ability though Claudia is a role that requires true A list mystique so perhaps Kidman was the only choice that would have worked.
TS#2: They build up to her character's appearance, and once she finally appears, they give her a boring musical number that's oddly patched together. It's a small role, and not a great use of her talents.
The rest of the cast? Looks like Kate Hudson will be a polarizing part of Nine.
TS#1: Hudson is fantastic in a very limited role. Her one number (new for the film?) is the absolute highlight. It's slick, stylish, well sung, well choreographed, and catchy. This early cut of the film used it as the ending credits song, so I'm assuming it's brand new. I can see a Globe nod for Hudson (and an Original Song win if it is new), but I think her character isn't meaty enough to breakthrough elsewhere.In keeping with the other buzz you might have been reading or hearing, Penélope Cruz and Marion Cotillard were both big hits with the test screeners and Oscar nominations might be coming
No, Fergie Ferg cannot act to save her life. Rob Marshall actually shot her solo song around her physical placement in the scene, never coming close to zooming in on her doing anything other then pouting her lips and tossing sand in the air.
Sophia Loren is the biggest victim of the changes to the script and score but she's great in the smallest role.
TS#2: The consensus of the people I went with was that Hudson was awful. Loren doesn't do much. Fergie just has the one scene (the song in the trailer), but it's quite a scene and she undoubtedly has the best voice in the film.
TS #1: Curse Cruz for winning the Oscar for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. This is easily her best performance and she steals every single scene she's in. She has the meatiest role of anyone in the film and milks it for all its worth. Think Catherine Zeta Jones in Chicago - Cruz juices this orange down to the pith and drains it of every delicious, sexy drop. "A Call From the Vatican" is probably the single sexiest moment I've ever seen in a filmed musical, even with more clothes on than I expected. The only reason I wouldn't consider her a lock in Supporting Actress is her recent win.
Marion Cotillard is the safest bet for a Supporting Actress nomination. With so much of the music eliminated from the film, Cotillard is the only one to benefit from clear additional screentime. She gets to show the most range in her vocals, from soft and vulnerable to raunchy and wild. It's pure Oscar Bait suffering wife, only with singing and dancing and sexy costumes.
TS#2: The two best performances were definitely Cruz and Cotillard. As a Penélope fanatic, I'd give the edge to her. She KILLS in her musical number and is quite funny and sexy throughout her entire performance. However, her musical sequence is the second in the film and the film forgets about her early on... I wouldn't bet on a nomination.
If anyone gets Oscar-nominated, it's likely to be Marion Cotillard. She has the most sympathetic role, and she pulls it off. Her first musical number is fairly low-key but it's generally moving and she pulls off a great second musical sequence. Ultimately, she's the character you care about and the one people will likely remember.
Neither of them consider the movie an unqualified success though they both obviously enjoyed it. Some final thoughts:
TS #1: Rob Marshall's direction is near-perfection. The difficult integration of fantasy/reality brought on by Guido's crisis is genius. The problems mostly come from the screenplay's adaptation choices. What could be a strong examination of deep emotional issues is whitewashed. For all the sexuality in the movie, the film has been turned into a sanitized version of a very engrossing and original musical eliminating any psychological complexity beyond "my husband doesn't love me" or "I'm very stressed". All the elements are there that a fan of the show would know, just not in a recognizable form. It pulls its cues from the lighter Broadway revival, down to a slightly more optimistic ending in a single staging decision. The screenplay pulls every punch, reducing what could be a knock-out climax to a slap on the wrist.So there you have it. Or two of it. Moviegoing is a personal thing, even when the theater is sold out. Your reaction may well differ and maybe these two voices won't be 'on consensus' but if they are, Oscar will bite in several categories (as most expected) and Marion Cotillard is the one to watch for Oscar... again.
TS#2: I can tell you that it's a very good film that will likely go over very well with the Academy. It's made in the same style as Chicago -- the musical numbers are fantasies -- and I think it works. I don't think it's a GREAT film, but it was entertaining and handsomely made.
my current Oscar predictions
For more on the film or any of its actors, click on the labels below.