Saturday, July 08, 2006

Nine Lives: Grade A


Nine Lives

Rodrigo Garcia, writer and director. With Glen Close, Dakota Fanning, Joe Mantegna, Aidan Quinn, Holly Hunter, Sissy Spacek, Robin Wright Penn, Elpidia Carrillo, and others.

This is a tour de force for Garcia. The nine short stories present vignettes of women’s lives in 10 to 15 minute slice of life mini-dramas. Each mini-movie is shot in one take – no editing, so the quality of the performances is edgy and alive, and the camera becomes a character in the scene. But the real star of this picture is the writing. Each of the stories is an existential gem. Women (and the people around them) confront death, love, confusion, aging, loneliness, memory and tragedy. Each story is poignant and intellectual at the same time. Not all are equally effective. The opener, in which Elpidia Carrillo plays an inmate in a women’s prison, is riveting and memorable. The second one is also commanding, then the third is a little flat. Glen Close’s scene with Dakota Fanning in a cemetery is extremely well acted, but doesn’t do anything. Others, such as the woman (Kathy Baker) in surgery prep for a mastectomy with her husband (Joe Mantegna) are absolutely gripping. The dialog on that one reminded me of Samuel Beckett. Stunning performances all around.

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