Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

01 February 2008

The Nines, dir. John August (2007)

STEVE says:
I hate nothing more than a movie I need a director's commentary to understand.

Case in point, Donnie Darko: I'm one of two people I know who think it's less than genius, but I maintain that if I need Richard Kelly to explain what his movie is all about, it is he who failed, not I.

I feel the same way about John August's The Nines. It started off shakily, became interesting, then ended on a pseudo-spiritual note that I'm still trying to figure out.

Not that I didn't understand the movie - God (or close enough) gets too involved with his work down here on Earth and starts role-playing certain characters, all creative people, all involved in entertainment, and his god-buddies from back home, cleverly disguised as mere mortals, try and snap him out of it. That was plain enough. But it begged too much explanation in other areas.

Why, for example, did the Margaret character - a human - seem to know all about "the nines"? It's she who explains to Ryan Reynolds' "Gary" about the number system.

GARY: Are you saying I’m God?
MARGARET: Technically, no. If God is a ten, a theoretical ultimate, you’re more of a nine.
GARY: So what are you?
MARGARET: Humans are sevens. Monkeys are sixes.
GARY: What are the eights?
MARGARET: Koalas. They’re telepathic. Plus, they control the weather.

Where's she getting this information? Nines, sixes, eights? On what scale? What the hell?

Other things bothered me, too. Reynolds is playing three characters: Gary, an actor; Gavin, a TV writer; and Gabriel, a character in the show Gavin has written.

Whoa, there.

A character. Not the actor who plays the character, but the character. Within the story that Gavin has written. Make that make sense for me.

Make any of this make sense for me.

Whether the answers lie in the director's commentary or not, I shouldn't have to leave a movie asking, "What does any of it mean?" But perhaps that's the joke - an existentialist movie that leaves the viewer asking the same questions as about life itself.

If so, it's a cruel joke.


NIKKI says:
I just found out John August's The Nines is semi-autobiographical. In the film, Ryan Reynolds plays three parts -- an actor too close to his work, a writer too close to his work, and a game designer to close to his work. This too-closeness is supposedly unhealthy, and causes nothing but devastation for these characters. Apparently, August suffered a bit of a similar meltdown when trying to keep his personal life in order while trying to steer his WB show, DC to success. Add to this a four-month addiction to the role-paying Internet game, World of WarCraft and you can see how August might have reinvented himself in the guise of Ryan Reynolds' Gary/Gavin/Gabriel character.

With that in mind, the existential elements of this film make sense. It's all about the artist as God and the repercussions of blurring the lines between what is real and what the artist creates. Still upon closer examination, the big questions asked here have few satisfying answers. The art/artist debate seems to fall by the wayside at the film's end, and to say why gives too much away. I will say, though, that I couldn't decide if the film was about parallel lives, roads not taken, the artist as God, or any other of the alluded to stuff. Gary was hearing things upstairs, for instance -- is it Gavin, and if it is, why doesn't Gabriel ever hear noises beyond his realm? Too much left un- (or under) explained.

Little bits and pieces throughout pointed towards the film's eventual failure. There was much steering from the tracks, such as Hope Davis's cabaret moment singing "Is That All There Is." What was that about? I get the feeling August was trying to create a Charlie Kaufman or David Lynch script, full of weird and wonderful asides and images. Those writers, though, seem to know how everything interconnects. And even if it doesn't, it's not entirely out of place. Like when Ben sings in Blue Velvet -- it might not relate directly to the plot, but it builds character and atmosphere. In The Nines, it makes us laugh at its silliness as it in no way furthers the plot or characters.

The more I consider it, the less I like The Nines. I did enjoy Ryan Reynolds -- it's hard not to. And I won't give up on John August just yet. I liked Go too much to do that.


1 comment:

Patrick Roberts said...

The overlapping storyline of the Nines resolves itself nicely at the end... and, although Reynolds proved himself to be a versatile actor, it was Melissa McCarthy who did a particularly great job of adding color to the whole thing.