Review: The Nines – the best little genre film of the past year
A very thoughtful and thought-provoking film combining the metaphysical, the spiritual and the human element, The Nines is directed by acclaimed screenwriter John August and stars Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy, Hope Davis and Elle Fanning.
RATING: R (For brief drug use and mild sexuality)
NOW SHOWING: On DVD
GENRE: Science Fiction
In these days of multi-million-dollar special effects extravaganzas, movie studios seem to be pumping most – if not all – of their budget dollars into getting flashier and more impressive computer-generated imagery on screen.
But, every so often a lower-budget film comes along that reminds us of the power of great writing in filmed speculative fiction; how an audience can me moved and come to love a movie through its characters and by deft story telling.
The Nines is one of those films. It succeeds as a science fiction movie without space ships or with computer-animated cartoons as main characters as is all the rage these days.
Unfortunately, during this film’s original theatrical run during late 2007, it was lost in the shuffle of Holiday blockbuster wannabes and was relegated to just a handful of theatres in just the biggest U.S. cities. Luckily, thanks to home video, The Nines now has a home on DVD and is available to all.
Like recent lower-budget speculative fiction films like Donnie Darko and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Nines uses story and character in the contemporary world to pose its “what if.” This is a lesson we’ve known since The Twilight Zone first appeared on TV screens in the 1960s.
So, big-budget studios, listen up. The secret to how a good movie is made: You need to start with a great story.
The fact that a great story is at the heart of The Nines should be no surprise. It was written by director John August, the writer of such screenplays as Go, Titan A.E., Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride and the forthcoming movies, Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam and Dark Shadows.
The problem with writing a review for The Nines is that the film is set up like M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. There is a surprise ending that would spoil full enjoyment of the film if you knew what it was before you start watching it.
What I can say is that the film is set up as a triptych of sorts, a series of three short films starring the same three actors centered around the characters of Ryan Reynolds (Blade: Trinity, Amityville Horror, and the forthcoming X-Men Origins: Wolverine) who plays Gary, a troubled actor; Gavin, a television show runner; and Gabriel, an acclaimed video game designer.
None of those stories appears to be the least bit science fiction or fantasy until the final scene of the final story. That’s when it all comes together as a metaphysical fable to appeal to those living in the 21st century’s Internet age.
Reynolds is joined by independent cinema star Hope Davis (American Splendor, Six Degrees) as the characters, Sarah, Susan and Sierra. Melissa McCarthy (Gilmore Girls) plays the characters Margaret, Melissa and Mary.
The cast and acting are top-notch and that quality of this film never falters helps the viewer suspend disbelief enough for this weird ride of a movie.
Reynolds shines playing three distinct characters in a self-obsessed actor, a big-hearted TV writer and a devoted family man. Davis is downright spooky as her character walks a line without letting the audience truly know of her character’s real intentions or motivations until the very end.
But it is Melissa McCarthy’s performance that is the standout. Her character is the heart and soul of this film and the actress pulls it off. It is through her eyes that we ultimately realize what is going on.
The movie is rated R for foul language and brief drug use and sexual situations in the first of the three vignettes about the action movie star, although these scenes are much less disturbing than many of the blood-gore shootouts in many PG-13 summer blockbusters these days.
- Top-notch writing by John August
- The three main actors are flawless at their craft
- The twist ending is both poignant and thought-provoking
- Not meant for children.
- Drug use and mild sexual situations may be a turn off for some.
- People who prefer action movies, fight scenes and space ships may be bored by the pace of this film.
David Speakman has spent more than two decades as a writer/editor, photographer, graphic designer and manager of creative teams in broadcast, print and the Internet. His education is in journalism, graphic design, organizational communication and law.
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