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Nines, The
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by Erik Childress

"John August Cooks His Nines"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: John August may have gotten his credit as having written the Charlie’s Angels films in My Date with Drew, but don’t write that off as a weakness. August has accomplished himself thricefold assisting Tim Burton in adaptations for Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well as one of the few to successfully pull off a triplicate piece of storytelling in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction wake with Go. August steps behind the camera with another interconnecting script, a challenging loop of spiritual indecision within the confines of a city known for quick creations and their inevitable consequences. Oh yes, The Nines is going to be one of those moviegoing experiences you can’t help but discuss once you’re able to remove yourself from your seat.

Three stories. Three actors. Three different characters for each of them. Or are they? In the first chapter, entitled “The Prisoner”, Ryan Reynolds plays a popular television actor who has a meltdown after his girlfriend leaves him. A self-destructive morning gets him placed under house arrest and guarded by a cheery but ruthlessly protective publicist (Melissa McCarthy) assigned to keep him in line. Bored into complacency, the actor begins seeing and hearing odd things around, including references to the number nine. His temporary neighbor (Hope Davis) proves to be the greatest distraction of all. Albeit married, she hides little of her interest in him. And then things get really weird.

But onto Chapter Two (“Reality”) where Reynolds is now a less-masculine television writer in the middle of creating a new supernatural drama. The star is his longtime friend (McCarthy playing herself) getting her own show in the wake of Gilmore Girls jumping the shark. Davis is now a TV exec overseeing production, currently documented as a reality show (a la Project Greenlight), but like the doppelganger of her character from Chapter One, she’s not above interference that will shake the foundation of the others. And then things get really weird.

Here we come, Chapter Three (“Knowing”) where Reynolds and McCarthy are now a married couple on vacation. When their car battery dies in the hills, hubby goes on a trek to find help and instead finds a lone backpacker (Davis) who, well, wants to offer more than assistance. And then get the picture.

Or will you? August’s screenplay clearly is intended to have all sorts of metaphysical interpretations about the identities of its players and their roles in whatever master plan is meant for us all. But he doesn’t make it so obtuse to where any answer would be the wrong one or that you get the sense that August doesn’t have his own definitive answers (unlike David Lynch.) There will be arguments about the timeline, the finales of every chapter and the gumption to create an ethereal figure out of Ryan Reynolds. It’s a puzzle though that will be as much fun to put together as it is to resonate with others later on.

Similar to one of the running themes of the film, John August harbors a sense of responsibility towards his characters as much as the intertwining plot. The Nines is certainly an actor’s showcase as much as it is a gimmicky circle jerk for the brain. Reynolds, who has ranged from funny-to-annoying in lesser comedies, excels here with a chance to show-off both his natural comic chops and a dramatic range that helps sell the structure as an interconnected divergence. Like the second chapter, August has given McCarthy one of those career boosting roles that should see her breaking out from the extra-jolly best friend mystique. Rarely do actors playing themselves at some point get material this succulent to cut into. It’s unfortunate that this is just a movie review and not some sort of thesis paper, since I imagine it’s the kind of feature that film teachers are dying to assign. Going into detail about its secrets here before you’ve had a chance to experience it for yourself wouldn’t be kosher and the first two chapters are much stronger than the eventual resolution. Nevertheless, it’s still a thinker and anytime you can say that about a film in January or February it’s a rare thing.

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originally posted: 02/15/07 03:52:49
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/01/08 porfle Loved it. 4 stars
2/01/08 I AM meh 2 stars
1/25/08 Ramzi Abed Sooo different from "Go". More like Richard Kelly or David Lynch. 5 stars
1/17/08 Lilly A must see for all freethinkers 5 stars
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  31-Aug-2007 (R)
  DVD: 29-Jan-2008



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