Thursday, September 03, 2009

On the Nine Test Screenings

I've been withholding. Not purposefully or vindicatively but all the same...

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.
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.
But what about the glamourous actresses swirling around him? Both readers jump to Judi Dench next and here they also disagree.
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.
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.
Split decisions again.

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.
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.
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.

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.

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.
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
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.
The horniest (known) call ever made from the Vatican

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.

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.
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.

my current Oscar predictions
For more on the film or any of its actors, click on the labels below.


adelutza said...

I can't wait to see this. I have high hopes for Penelope Cruz, she's one of the finest actresses today imo.I wish for a double nom for her but I'll settle even with one ...
Too bad Nicole's role is small , I had high hopes for her too. But one never knows...

Rae Kasey said...

In both versions of the stage musical (original and revival) the actresses who played Carla and Luisa each got a supporting nod at the Tonys.

I'd love to see that happen at the Oscars if the film does well since I adore Cruz and Cotillard.

jess said...

We knew Kidman's part was small.

What did you expect ?

I think it's bound to get nominated for Best Picture, so it will help her the following years with Rabbit Hole, Little Bee, and what looks like her meatiest part ever, The Danish Girl.

jbaker475 said...

Glad to here good things from people who also offered criticisms. I'm still dying to see the film so I can make up my own mind though. As for Kidman, having seen 8 1/2 (but not the Nine stage musical) I knew the role was small, and I hope that I have a different reaction than the two whose comments you posted. Mainly because I'd like to see her be good in a movie that is good (and by "good" I mean good enough to break her "rotten" streak on Rottentomatoes). Obviously this wasn't going to be Kidman's Oscar comeback film, but it would be cool if she managed to get some nominations via Best Ensemble cast awards from SAG or some critics awards. The only thing that doesn't surprise me about any of this is that Cruz and Cotillard steal the show, which is the feeling I've been getting since the first minuscule reactions from the first test screening surfaced.

adelutza said...

Viola Davis's part in Doubt was around 5 minutes and she got a nom

Anonymous said...

It's good for Cotillard and Cruz to receive attention for this, because they don't seem to have substantial parts in their upcoming movies (Inception looks like a Leo film and I think Cruz is taking a break from films)

On the other hand Kidman has so much projects lined up with great potential, she will survive not being the standout in Nine after Rabbit Hole and The Danish Girl are released.

Who else in Hollywood can snag such great parts ?

DJ said...

I think it was obvious from the get-go that Cruz would steal her scenes... she has a raunchy, loud role... and she plays sexy well.

As a Cotillard fangirl, I'm extremely excited to hear that she's fantastic. She was amazing in Public Enemies, and her French film The Last Flight should also be good. I can't get enough of her.

And I don't care what anyone says, I'm still just as psyched to see Kidman in the film as any of the other actors. She's a goddess.

Now I'm just curious as to how much the final version will chance from what these two people saw (and I feel inclined to be more influenced by the second person.. she/he sounded more professional)

Clarence said...

*Squeals*!!! MARION COTILLARD <3!! OMG yay!! I love her to death and now I can't wait to see this movie again. Truth be told, the first reason I wanted to see this movie was because Chicago was the first musical EVER I saw when I was like what 11 years old? So I have a tad bit of an affection for Rob Marshall's work. (Yes despite the fact Memoirs was boring, you get to stare at beautiful pictures along the way). The point is, Regardless of whether this movie tanks, I think I will love it because there are so many people I love working in it :) Especially Marion Cotillard :D

Anonymous said...

Still very excited about this film. I get the feeling that people's reactions will depend a great deal on how familiar they are with the source material. I've only heard a few of the songs from the Broadway show, and when I saw the trailer the thing that got me most excited (outside of my darling Nikki of course) were those glimpses of the Kate Hudson number. And Penelope doing that thing with her leg. And DDL apparently giving a "light" performance. And I could just go on and on.

I think it would have to be a total disaster not to make the Best Picture line-up, and I don't see how that's possible with 10 nominees. Maybe not a the winner, but probably a safe bet for most nominations this year.


Nadine said...

Anonymous @ 9.53am Marion's got a lead role coming up post Nine in Le Dernier Vol (The Last Flight) as well as starring in Les Petits Mouchoirs (and the abovementioned Inception). So I wouldn't say she's limiting herself to supporting roles..

Glad to see the film is starting to gain momentum.

Anonymous said...

This movie has been a big waste of time for Kidman. I'm sorry for her.

Anonymous said...

"And not move her forehead."

When people will grow up really?

And Unusual Way a boring song? It can't be real, they were kidding you Nathaniel because they know you love Nicole. My friends to the same with me. They don't give me the satisfaction to see them enjoying a Nicole's perfomance.

DJ said...

Anon @10:44 -- ya, I forgot to mention that comment as well.. another reason why I'm not too found of source #1. A really childish comment, if you ask me.

J. Cross said...

By eliminating most of the musical numbers, Marshall's Nine is starting to sound like Fosse's Cabaret.

Jim T said...

Sounds good in general. Cotillard is really making a name for herself in Hollywood. And yes Marion. Someday you might win a second. By then Daniel will have three. :p

gabrieloak said...

I knew Rob Marshall would ruin this very special, highly romantic musical and it sounds like he has. Nine should never have been handled in the style of Chicago.

It was a mistake to mess up the score, too.

I expect Cruz and Cotillard to get all the hype, especially since they're both recent Oscar winners.

Will said...

if deep can get a nomination for Sweeney Todd, one has to think in a weaker best actor year that DDL has a great shot with a less than stellar performance in Nine

Flosh said...

yay for another unimaginitive (the musical numbers are fantasies! so clever!), dullsville rob marshall musical. that said, i'm looking forward to seeing penelope in her full glory.

Anonymous said...

DJ, of course it is childish but I bet you the writer thought he or she had wit. As far as I have read, Kidman is fine in the role. This was not the first screening, they screened it in July and comments I read said that she was fine, indeed. From source #1's comment, it is easy to tell that this is not a fan. Just shrug it off.

alexio said...

@ gossip

Frankly, do you think her part in Le dernier Vol looks award-worthy ?

What I meant is that Kidman's movies post-Nine provide her with baity part each time (Rabbit, Danish Girl and Little Bee).


Are the female commentators on this blog even human ? Do you all go back to being the CEO of your company one month after giving birth ?


Anonymous said...

It always amuses me how people read the synopsis of Kidman's films and say that her roles are baity. Her roles sound baity but they never are. She may look like she is playing a grieving widow on paper but it is not that straight forward, she may be playing a real life person i.e. a biopic but it is usually not that straight forward. Danish Girl is NOT a baity role, her role in Little Bee is far from baity, too. They are not the usual "scream, whine, mope, look less ugly or glamorous" and we will gift you a nomination even if we don't remember the performance in about 6 months" roles.

Also, what does the fact that she went back to work after giving birth got to do with whether her role was big or small? lol And if she started rehearsing four weeks after giving birth then she surely has the powers to be in 2 places at once since she was in Nashville then Australia and did not get to London until September.

Anonymous said...

it sounds like they didn't do a great job translating the musical into a movie. Now, I'm positive, it doesn't have much of a chance at winning best picture. Doesn't sound like it deserves to. But maybe it'll still be great.

P.S. Viola Davis was in "Doubt" for about 10 to 15 minutes which is still small but not 5 minutes small.

Victor S said...

If Jason Robards could win two consecutives supporting actor (and the second one was Julia, where he doesn't do anything) why can't Penelope win again?

Victor S said...

@ Jose: By eliminating most of the musical numbers, Marshall's Nine is starting to sound like Fosse's Cabaret.

And you mean that like a bad thing??
Cabaret is probably the best adaptation of a musical ever!!!

I seriouly wish every musical sounded like Cabaret!!!!


yes yes. Cabaret is astonishing on film. I think it's much better than the stage play even though it does chuck some of the musical numbers.

I don't really understand Marshall's obsession with musical numbers as fantasy (the musicals have already come back. People will accept people breaking out into song and dance. Hairspray didn't feel the need to pretend it wasn't a musical) but that said it seems like a logical way to deal with Nine which is so much about what goes on, memory wise and fantasy wise in Guido's head. It's not like A Call to the Vatican or Folies Bergeres for example, are portrayed as realism in the stage production.

Nadine said...

alexio I was referring to the French film industry not the Oscars per se. Just because Marion's decided to do some French films doesn't mean she isn't working. You honestly can't put her in the same boat as previous Oscar winners and follow up films.

Clarence said...

RoFl even if Nicole Kidman has a small part in Nine, Its possible she (well hard not to when it comes to her) knocks it out of the part. I mean hello, Beatrice Straight won an Oscar for FOUR minutes!! And that Hermione Badeley or however you spell her name got in for TWO minutes!!!

Truthfully, it's not the largeness of one's screentime it's the memorability, the impact, the importance of the character, the performance, and finally and most obvious, the campaign behind it.
(Not true--Candy Clark got a nomination with just 1 Variety Ad if I remember from reading somewhere <.<)

Volcaji said...

I'm glad to read all the things about Penélope Cruz! I'm spanish, and I love cinema, and, of course, I love Penélope Cruz.

But It's funny because in Spain Penélope recieves the worst reviews that you can imagine! The most of the people hates her. In Spain people think she's not a good actress, she's such a lucky girl with a lot of "boyfriends".

And when I read blogs like this I realize she deserve all the good things that happens in her life (Allen, Almodóvar, Marshall,...).

I wish all the people in spain think like you!

Danny King said...

This is kind of the reaction I expected...A very good film that will be an Oscar darling. I am happy to hear Cruz and Cotillard were so good, those are two of my favorite actresses working today. I'm also a big Day-Lewis fan, and it was interesting to see that they were divided on his performances. But his performances are so big and defined, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a nomination as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm seriously sick of hearing about Nine. I hope it flops.

Derreck said...

I was reading the Moulin Rouge link posted with this article, and while i loved reading it and laughed and giggled, i found out it wasn't even finished. i was soooo hurt. it's like eating ice cream and hearing that sound when your spoon scrapes the bottom.

Anyways, back to the topic at hand, i'm totally ignoring that Kidman bash, because i'm not in the mood to foam at the mouth. I'll make my own judgements when i see the film.

btw, where the hell is that Vogue cover that the some of the NINE ladies posed for? i guess nearer to the movie's release date.....

Dio said...

Volcaji, I know! I like Penélope too, and it's nice to come here and read nice things about her, but she doesn't have the best reputation in spanish-speaking countries. Most people I've talked to about her seem to think she's only famous because of Tom Cruise and her former boyfriends. And it seems that in Spain they weren't so thrilled about her Oscar win (you know, besides being proud 'cause she's spanish).

Fan #1 said...

Very glad to hear all those things, especially about the cotillard and cruz performances. harvey is not an idiot, i'm pretty sure he will put Cotillard in lead catégory and Cruz in supporting. It is what he did for the english Patient : Juliette Binoche and Kristin Scott Thomas have the same screen time.

No Bad Movies said...

You have Nine at 8 nods but I would replace DDL for Johnny Depp in Public Enemies. Also that film has two things going against it; mixed reviews and a summer release. Nobody is talking about the movie anymore either. If Depp was that warranted you'd still be hearing people buzzing about it. They are not. Only Depp fan boys and girls.

I think Nine will be the Oscar leader in nominations with no less than 10.


moviefreak -- a reasonable assumption except that it's only September and I don't think i've ever seen a year where at least one picture that already faded got some renewed heat when teh campaign and DVD release began.

maybe it won't be Johnny Depp. maybe it'll be Michelle Pfeiffer. or maybe it'll be Tilda Swinton (wishful thinking since the film is miniscule and tough -- two things Oscar don't like) or...

i guess in a weak year for best actor anything is possible is what i'm saying. I really really really want the Holbrook and Bridges pictures to get released in time. That'll shake things up.

steolicious said...

I would love to see Marion and Judi get another nomination. Judi´s appearance in "Shakespear in love" was really short but she got the oscar, maybe she´ll do it again!

Glenn Dunks said...

You know, I mightn't have liked Cotillard in La vie on Rose, but I gotta give her props for choosing some interesting films to work on after her Oscar. A Michael Mann film? A musical? Christopher Nolan's newie? She's actually choosing some really fine directors (even if the films themselves aren't the greatest).

Sure beats the likes of Halle Berry and Reese Witherspoon.

Fernando Moss said...

I would love to see that Pfeiffer is the one with the renewed heat...

Haven't seen Cheri, so I don't know how good or not is she, but... I would really love to see my favorite actress nominated for an Oscar (I was only 5 when she received her last nomination and back then I didn't watch awards shows).

No Bad Movies said...

What Holbrook and Bridges movies do you mean ? Holbrook is off my radar. I know Bridges has Crazy Hear but that got pushed back to 2010. He does look pretty good ( funny )in The Men Who Stare At Goats.


Holbrook stars in That Evening Sun. I'm not sure what's going on with it distribution wise but I saw it at the Nashville Film Festival and he could get a Best Actor nomination for it if he had the right campaign / distributor.

Anonymous said...

oh please, small role does not mean nothing!! I'm sure if Kidman is good as she has always been, even with a small role she will kick-off verybody!! anyway, Claudia stays on screen for 10-15 mins, so I don't think it's a very small part if you consider that except Cotillard all the ladies have a small screen time. claudia is a supporting role, very supporting even in the play and in the fellini's movie but it is still a beautiful part.

Anonymous said...

I found another review from a test screening. This person loved Penelope's performance

..."Carla Albanese (Penelope Cruz, who steals every single moment she has on screen and dominates the first half of the film enough to also arguably bump up to lead)"

and is giving rave reviews to Hudson as well.

"...Stephanie Necrophorus (Kate Hudson, who is the second most likely to be nominated in Supporting Actress for virtue of hitting a home run on the best and flashiest of the new songs for the film in visually the most memorable sequence of the film; she also does great in her other small scenes and holds her own against DDL)."


Janice said...

//I was reading the Moulin Rouge link posted with this article, and while i loved reading it and laughed and giggled, i found out it wasn't even finished. i was soooo hurt. it's like eating ice cream and hearing that sound when your spoon scrapes the bottom. //

Derreck, I know exactly how you feel - the fact that Nathaniel linked back to that essay (my favorite and much-beloved essay on the film) made me smile. It also reminded me that it remains unfinished *sniff*. At least now I'm not the ONLY one nagging in vain.

As far as anything else goes, I'll see the film myself and make my own judgements. I've never seen the play so I don't have that particular set of baggage to deal with.

And why does everything Nicole does have to be treated as a "comeback" and somehow, "a failure"? First off, she never went away, she'll not likely ever have the run she had in 2001-2003 (but how many actresses ever do?) so judging everything she does on that is unfair. (Did Cate's reputation suffer when she went slumming artistically to do Indiana Jones 5? No.)

So Stacie said...

Am I the only one that is SICK TO DEATH of people thinking that they're being 'smart' or 'funny' saying that Nicole Kidman's forehead doesn't move? If you look in every movie she has ever done, you will find that it does indeed move. So what if she's had work done, she's still one of the greatest actor's this generation has seen.