Review: The Nines (2007)

The Nines

The Nines

Rating



Director

John August

Screenplay

John August

Length

100 min.

Starring

Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy, Hope Davis, Elle Fanning, David Denman, Octavia Spencer

MPAA Rating

R (for language, some drug content and sexuality)

Buy/Rent Movie

Poster

Review

In a vanity project to be sure, screenwriter John August debuts as helmer to bring his scribed vision of The Nines to the big screen.

It’s an existential film to be certain. Focusing on three different stories, each featuring the same three major actors, The Nines explores philosophical issues, but only when examining the film as a whole and not beforehand. Each of the characters is interconnected in ways that aren’t always obvious and really only have a correlation when examined at the end of the film.

Ryan Reynolds stars as Gary, Gavin and Gabriel. Gary is a Hollywood celebrity forced into house arrest after a string of bad decisions including crack use, burning his home down by lighting his ex-girlfriend’s clothes on fire, drinking and driving and crashing his car. Gavin is a television show runner hoping to bring get his pilot on the air while competing against former associates who are willing to stab him in the back to get what they want. Gabriel is a famed video game designer whose created a god-like game controlling the lives of various characters.

Reynolds finds himself far from the blockbuster actioners and horror films that have made him a recognized name and returns to his comedic roots and shows us a dramatic range that is quite shocking considering his past vehicles. He has the kind of presence that keeps you glued to the screen even when the material around him seems to be looking for a direction to go.

Appearing in various temptress roles is Hope Davis who alternately plays Sarah, Gary’s sex craving neighbor; Susan, Gavin’s network programming boss who swears she wants to get his pilot on the air, but makes overtures that indicate the opposite; and Sierra, a hiker who meets Gabriel along an abandoned road as he tries to find help to take back to his wife and child who are stranded in the woods.

Davis is solid, but her characters are a bit irritating and while not the full-fledged villain you would expect in other films, her roles works against Reynolds in a way that makes you only tepidly dislike her.

The third actor with a major role, Melissa McCarthy, takes on a similar set of roles opposite Reynolds, this time as a friend, confidant and advisor to counteract the potentially damaging influence of Davis’ character. She appears as Gary’s agent and supporting structure Margaret, as Gavin’s best friend and pilot muse Melissa, and as Gabriel’s loving wife Mary.

McCarthy is much stronger in her role, creating the kind of lovable character that props up lesser films and makes them all the more enjoyable.

August’s sharp screenplay is far superior to his direction. While you can eventually figure out what’s going on, there are leaps in logic require to truly connect all the dots. And that’s the hazard of directing something you’ve written. While you’re well attached to the source and understand its inner workings, you have a blind spot to its weaknesses allowing too many of them to slip through.

The biggest flaw is the final act. Once you finally learn what’s going on and finally understand the purpose of the film, you’re left wondering if it was all worth the effort. If it weren’t for the performances, you might easily discard the film as another vanity project by a Hollywood screenwriter. However, the performances and devotion to the material do make The Nines a better product.

There are smart features and human observations that are key to the film’s success. They allow the audience to fully identify with and cheer on the characters. And while the conclusion isn’t as interesting as it could have been, the way the three stories slowly interweave more than makes up for that small terminal let down.

Review Written

September 19, 2008

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