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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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Pedro de San José Betancur: Central America claimed its first saint with the canonization of Pedro de San José Betancur by Pope John Paul II in Guatemala City on July 30, 2002. Known as the "St. Francis of the Americas," Pedro de Betancur is the first saint to have worked and died in Guatemala. 
<p>Calling the new saint an “outstanding example” of Christian mercy, the Holy Father noted that St. Pedro practiced mercy “heroically with the lowliest and the most deprived.” Speaking to the estimated 500,000 Guatemalans in attendance, the Holy Father spoke of the social ills that plague the country today and of the need for change. </p><p>“Let us think of the children and young people who are homeless or deprived of an education; of abandoned women with their many needs; of the hordes of social outcasts who live in the cities; of the victims of organized crime, of prostitution or of drugs; of the sick who are neglected and the elderly who live in loneliness,” he said in his homily during the three-hour liturgy. </p><p>Pedro very much wanted to become a priest, but God had other plans for the young man born into a poor family on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Pedro was a shepherd until age 24, when he began to make his way to Guatemala, hoping to connect with a relative engaged in government service there. By the time he reached Havana, he was out of money. After working there to earn more, he got to Guatemala City the following year. When he arrived he was so destitute that he joined the bread line that the Franciscans had established. </p><p>Soon, Pedro enrolled in the local Jesuit college in hopes of studying for the priesthood. No matter how hard he tried, however, he could not master the material; he withdrew from school. In 1655 he joined the Secular Franciscan Order. Three years later he opened a hospital for the convalescent poor; a shelter for the homeless and a school for the poor soon followed. Not wanting to neglect the rich of Guatemala City, Pedro began walking through their part of town ringing a bell and inviting them to repent. </p><p>Other men came to share in Pedro's work. Out of this group came the Bethlehemite Congregation, which won papal approval after Pedro's death. A Bethlehemite sisters' community, similarly founded after Pedro's death, was inspired by his life of prayer and compassion. </p><p>He is sometimes credited with originating the Christmas Eve <i>posadas</i> procession in which people representing Mary and Joseph seek a night's lodging from their neighbors. The custom soon spread to Mexico and other Central American countries. </p><p>Pedro was canonized in 2002.</p> American Catholic Blog We sometimes try to do everything on our own, forgetting that the Lord wants to help us. Let's never be afraid to admit that we are weak and can't do things on our own. St. Paul gives us a great example: "On my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses" (2 Corinthians 12:5).


 
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