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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.57%
Worth A Look42.86%
Average: 25%
Pretty Bad: 3.57%
Total Crap: 25%

4 reviews, 4 user ratings

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Nine Lives (2005)
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by William Goss

"Girls Gone Mild"
1 stars

'Nine Lives' consists of nine vignettes, with each one providing a brief glimpse into the existence of a different woman. Instead of the material being clichéd enough to reach blatant Lifetime-level manipulation, director Rodrigo Garcia seems content with the polar opposite, instead ensuring that every portion is devoid any emotion that may offer a sense of fulfillment with the viewer. At one point, one of the gals declares that “a woman can’t kill herself.” Hell, maybe nine could do the trick. After all, misery loves company.

The intertwining tales include: Sandra (Elpidia Carrillo), a prisoner eagerly awaiting a visit from her daughter; Diana (Robin Wright Penn), a pregnant woman running into an old flame at the grocery store; Holly (Lisa Gay Hamilton), an unstable woman preparing for her stepfather’s arrival; Sonia (Holly Hunter), an outgoing gal dragging her dismal boyfriend to see some friends; Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), a teenage girl bouncing back and forth between her parents; Lorna (Amy Brenneman), a friend attending a funeral; Ruth (Sissy Spacek), a mother considering an affair; Camille (Kathy Baker), a wife preparing to tackle breast cancer; and Maggie (Glenn Close), a mother enjoying a picnic with her daughter.

As it turns out, the segments, each an uninterrupted shot lasting about twelve minutes each, have varying degrees of connection. Holly appears as Camille’s nurse, Ruth is Samantha’s mom, Diana’s ex happens to be one of Sonia’s friends, and so on and so forth. However, the links are so casual that they seem to be tossed in as to provide some slight semblance of cohesion to unite the episodes, save the final sequence, a cemetery outing between Maggie and her daughter, Maria (Dakota Fanning), which offers no relationship in regards to everything else whatsoever.

The pieces of Nine Lives come across as rather flat theatrical scenarios, more fit for a playhouse than a big screen. Each scene seems to reinforce the idea that Garcia simply told the cast to constantly progress an idea, like the reunion of high-school sweethearts, for a set time period, and the result is a series of filmed acting exercises attempting to pass as supposedly profound slice-of-life portraits. It becomes increasingly drab, as the notion sets in that the performers are all equally failing to inject any depth or raw emotion into their roles. The short-story structure also hurts the impact, robbing the segments of any narrative conclusion, with the sole exception once again being the cemetery picnic, whose climax is just as unsatisfying as it is painfully common. Had there been more time per segment, with a select few omitted entirely, the potential would arise to establish much more compelling dynamics that this version so sorely lacks.

However, the film sticks with its brand of sour power, managing to cram in pregnancy, terminal illness, abuse, adultery, regret, and loss within the course of its running time. With so much covered, it’s a shame more couldn’t stick with the audience outside of the underwhelming ensemble effort and the frequent patronizing diatribes spelling out the unfairness of life and how connected everyone is. In one such moment, an individual considers something a confection, made of pieces put together and not real as a result. Bingo. The main problem is that all one can salvage from such muddled material, without good guys or happy endings of any measure, is the continuous notion that life sucks, get over it. Even cynicism would make such pessimism go down easier, but lacking humor or hope, such a story fails to have any sort of purpose, which may be the most depressing aspect of all.

Not one, but two different characters in the film ask someone else to “cut the crap.” Such sage advice would have been awfully handy in, let’s say, pre-production, when it might have eliminated some of the hollow indie pretense that 'Nine Lives' wears on its sleeve and shoves down your throat.

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originally posted: 11/29/05 18:47:34
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/08/07 Tiffany Losco I found it boring and didn't make any sense. A waste of my $$ Dakota fanning is great! 2 stars
5/08/06 Joe Smaltz probably should have tried to watch it all, but it was borrrrrring! 1 stars
4/20/05 Krisan Graves Better than i expected from Paris... 3 stars
12/10/04 Danish White A great inssight into the many frustraations a modern-day woman can face. 5 stars
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  14-Oct-2005 (R)
  DVD: 14-Feb-2006



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