Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Nines: Grade A

The Nines (2007)
Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, Melissa McCarthy, Elle Fanning. Writer-Director John August.

This is more like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone than a serious narrative film, but it is extremely well acted, well photographed, and consistently engaging. The same characters appear in three short stories that represent different segments, or aspects of their lives. In one, Reynolds’ character is a crackhead video game creator under house arrest, monitored and befriended by parole officer McCarthy, seduced by neighbor Davis. In the next story, Reynolds is the writer-director of a TV pilot with Davis the network executive who forces him to fire his star, McCarthy. In the final story, the same three characters have yet different interrelated roles.

What do all the stories have in common? That’s the mystery the viewer must untangle. Confusion of reality and fantasy pervades all the stories (very Hollywood), but there is also a Platonic theme: is our life experience all that there is, or are we really prisoners in a cave, watching shadows on the wall while the real world is outside in the light? Compulsively watchable acting and sharp dialog keep this pretentiously heady film floating above metaphysical silliness. Two grating musical numbers disturbed the flow, but for the most part, the directing was competent. The big mystery of the stories is largely resolved, although there are too many loose ends and inconsistencies in characters’ points of view for it to end with a satisfying thump. Maybe lingering ambiguity and a sense of having been duped is consistent with the movie’s theme. I give it an A because of outstanding acting and a story that kept me on the hook.
A short DVD extra starring McCarthy is a bonus little gem.

1 comment:

  1. The overlapping storyline of the Nines resolves itself nicely at the end... and, although Reynolds proved himself to be a versatile actor, it was Melissa McCarthy who did a particularly great job of adding color to the whole thing.