HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

THE NINES -- movie review by porfle


THE NINES (2007) is a hard movie for me to talk about because I really don't want to tell you anything about it.  I derived a great deal of pleasure from watching this scintillating mystery unfold and go places I never could have imagined at every turn, so I'm hesitant to reveal anything that might deprive those of you inclined to like it as much as I did of the same experience. 

If you're still curious, keep reading and I'll give away stuff that you shouldn't know in the next four paragraphs.  But you can skip them if you want because I'll tell you up front:  this is definitely one of my favorite movies that I've seen in a long time.

Part One (of three) is the story of a young TV actor named Gary who burns his own house down while torching some stuff his ex-girlfriend left there.  The accidental arsonist is placed under house arrest, which he serves in the temporarily vacated home of a scriptwriter who's off shooting a television pilot.  His "warden" is a smiling-but-stern publicist named Margaret who's determined to make sure Gary serves his time without further incident or damage to his career.  Sara, a mysterious blonde woman next door, displays an aggressively romantic interest in Gary and then turns weird when he and Margaret begin to form a strong attachment. 

During this time, Gary starts to notice some very strange things going on.  He hears noises and feels as though someone else is in the house.  A little blonde girl who can't speak shows up one night and beckons to him, then disappears.  He turns around one day and, for an instant, sees himself standing there.  He finds a note that reads "Look For The Nines", which is in his handwriting although he didn't write it.  Every time he rolls a pair of dice, he gets a nine.  Sara tells him to stay away from Margaret because he's a nine and she isn't.  He overhears a heated exchange between Sara and Margaret which indicates that they know what's going on, and when the increasingly distraught Gary questions Margaret about it and demands the truth, she calmly explains that he is actually a...darn it, I just can't bring myself to give it away. Sorry.

Part Two is about a scriptwriter named Gavin who just shot a television pilot and is trying to sell it to a network with the help of an aggressive blonde producer named Susan.  The pilot, called "Knowing", is about a couple and their little girl who break down in the middle of nowhere.  When the husband goes off for help he never comes back, and the wife suspects that their mute daughter somehow knows what happened to him.  Gavin tries hard to get his close actress friend Melissa cast as the wife, but when he's told that she's been dropped from the show, he has to break the news to her and they have a bitter falling out.  Matters get worse when Gavin and Susan blow up at each other over the issue, and then they get really weird when he starts to see numbers floating over people's heads.  He's a nine, by the way.

Part Three is about a couple, Gabriel and Mary, and their little girl, Noelle, who break down in the middle of nowhere.  When the husband goes off for help he never comes back, and...well, you get the picture.

Trying to figure out what's going on in this movie and how it all ties together makes for one of the most fun and involving viewing experiences I've had in quite a while.  It starts out with a deceptively lighthearted attitude which gets darker and more serious as things get more complicated, finally reaching an emotional level that lingers after the fadeout.  Although there's no single revelatory moment as in THE SIXTH SENSE--in fact, much of the secret is revealed along the way--there's still a lot of satisfaction in watching the pieces of the puzzle fall into place one by one.

It helps to know that the six main characters are played by only three people.  Ryan Reynolds (VAN WILDER, BLADE:TRINITY) is Gary/Gavin/Gabriel, always the guy who's in the dark about the strange things happening around him.  Hope Davis (AMERICAN SPLENDOR, HEARTS IN ATLANTIS) is Sarah/Susan/Sierra, the blonde woman who keeps trying to clue him in.  And Melissa McCarthy ("Gilmore Girls") plays Margaret/Melissa/Mary, who, for some reason, doesn't seem to want him to find out the truth.  They all give excellent performances, while Dakota Fanning's younger sister Elle is very good as the little mute girl, Noelle.

This is the second directorial effort (after 1998's GOD) by John August, who also scripted.  His other screenplays include BIG FISH, CORPSE BRIDE, and both CHARLIE'S ANGELS movies.  The latter two seem to indicate that August is prone to turn to the dark side now and then, but otherwise he has a wonderfully vivid imagination that's on full display here. 

With its mind-bending "through the looking glass" premise, THE NINES reminded me somewhat of THE MATRIX.  But once Neo takes the red pill, the mystery is revealed and it turns into an action movie.  Here, the main character doesn't fall down the rabbit hole.  He's already in it--he just doesn't know it yet.  Although early on, he comes closer than he realizes to figuring it all out when it dawns on him, for the first time, that he doesn't have a bellybutton.

Buy it at

No comments: