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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Nine

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

The stylish world of mid-1960s Rome provides the backdrop for the glossy but morally shallow musical drama "Nine" (Weinstein).

Director Rob Marshall's adaptation of Arthur L. Kopit and Maury Yeston's 1982 Broadway hit—itself an homage to Federico Fellini's classic autobiographical fantasy "8 1/2," released in 1963—is, like both its sources, the portrait of a man in creative and personal meltdown.

World-weary, yet as much a prey as ever to his own relentless desires, Fellini stand-in Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), although a celebrated film director addressed as "Maestro" by virtually everyone he meets, is on the rebound, when we first see him, from two flops. Worse, he has yet to write a word of the script for his latest work—grandly entitled "Italia"—despite the fact that it's about to go into production.

As Guido scrambles to conceal his artistic dry spell, he also struggles to maintain the tangled relationships that complicate his private life. These include his marriage to much put-upon former actress Luisa (Marion Cotillard), his longstanding affair with sultry but unstable Carla (Penelope Cruz), his on-again, off-again tie to favorite leading lady and muse Claudia (Nicole Kidman) and his friendship with sensible costume designer and confidante Lilli (Judi Dench).

Also thrown into the emotional mix are the ghost of Guido's loving earth-mother Mamma (Sophia Loren) and—very much alive and kicking—flirtatious visiting Vogue journalist Stephanie (Kate Hudson).

Despite the occasional acknowledgment of the damage wrought by Guido's philandering, as penned by Michael Tolkin and the late Anthony Minghella, "Nine"—which mostly treats adultery as a symptom of sophistication—amounts to a celebration of its hero's long and busy sexual career.

As established in an extended flashback, this carnal chase dates back at least to the day when, as a boy, he led a party of his peers down to the local beach to ogle a willing display of flesh put on by the town prostitute Saraghina (Stacy Ferguson, aka Black Eyed Peas vocalist Fergie).

This escapade earns him a rebuke from Mamma and a caning by a priest (read: agent of the overly powerful, sexually repressive Catholic Church). Moving from the tyrannical to the hypocritical, as an adult, Guido encounters far friendlier cleric Don Mario (Michele Alhaique), who blithely assures him that, although the church condemns his films, the clergy all love them.

Rounding things off by demonstrating the church's irrelevance, Don Mario's boss, a star-struck cardinal (Remo Remotti) whom Guido presents with a photo of Claudia signed in lipstick, can offer the maestro some poetic advice—"The imagination is God's garden," he observes—but, as for answers or solutions, he has none to give.

The film contains a pervasive negative portrayal of Catholicism, brief nongraphic adulterous sexual activity, recurrent adultery theme, partial upper female and rear nudity, a couple of uses of profanity and a few crass terms. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

******
John Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.


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Dedication of St. Mary Major Basilica: First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431. Rededicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honoring God through Mary. Standing atop one of Rome’s seven hills, the Esquiline, it has survived many restorations without losing its character as an early Roman basilica. Its interior retains three naves divided by colonnades in the style of Constantine’s era. Fifth-century mosaics on its walls testify to its antiquity. 
<p>St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centers of the Church. St. John Lateran (November 9) represents Rome, the See of Peter; St. Paul Outside the Walls, the See of Alexandria, allegedly the see presided over by Mark (April 25); St. Peter’s, the See of Constantinople; and St. Mary’s, the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life. </p><p>One legend, unreported before the year 1000, gives another name to this feast: Our Lady of the Snows. According to that story, a wealthy Roman couple pledged their fortune to the Mother of God. In affirmation, she produced a miraculous summer snowfall and told them to build a church on the site. The legend was long celebrated by releasing a shower of white rose petals from the basilica’s dome every August 5.</p> American Catholic Blog We may pat ourselves on the back for doing nothing bad, but if we have done nothing good, we might need to reconsider how well we are living out the Gospels. There is a valid reason why the penitential rite, which we often pray at Mass, asks God to forgive all that we have done and all that we have failed to do.

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