Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Curiosities From the Queue -- The Nines

Anyone for some warmed over Lynch? Take a gander at The Nines, a not half-bad attempt at fucking with one's head in a more Hollywood friendly way. I know, don't over-sell it Sean, right? But actually it features some good to almost great performances by some people you wouldn't expect and a rabbit-hole story that actually packs some meaning. If only the writer/director could ease off on his god complex...

The autuer of The Nines is John August, long time writer, first time director. He starts off strong. Ryan Reynolds (like the other two main actors, he will play 3 different roles in this film.. wait, 3 main actors.... 3 different stories... 3 different characters... holy shit!) plays a television actor in the middle of a breakdown. He's first seen setting fire to his clothes, buying crack, asking a hooker how to smoke the crack, smoking the crack and freaking out about his bellybutton or lack thereof, and winding up in jail after flipping his car. It's a well paced and interesting intro that keeps the groove going while he's sentenced to house arrest, in a cozy place in the hill left unoccupied by an out of town writer (those clothes he was burning caught the rest of the house on fire), under the supervision of Hollywood problem fixer (honorary third Gilmore Girl) Melissa McCarthy. Only something spooky is going on in the house -- strange sounds and messages on post-its are popping up talking about something called the nines, sending an already teetering on the edge Reynolds into .

This portion of the film is clearly the strongest. It offers laughs, suspense, mystery, oh and a sexy Hope Davis, which really is too rare a thing these days. She plays the seductress from next door who's trying to keep Reynolds and McCarthy apart for some devious, unknown reason. Reynolds is given an ankle bracelet and once he breaks the house arrest boundary we're given our first Lost Highway-esque wormhole. Reynolds is now the out of town writer, David is now his agent, and McCarthy is now the childhood friend actress that Davis is trying to get Reynolds to replace for his new pilot.

Reynolds, McCarthy and Davis are all excellent in these rolls that they transition to. In this second part Reynolds goes from hetero-hollywood burnout to homo-hollywood screenwriter and the difference is a surprisingly confident and well played performance but since it's basically an impersonation of August himself it looses a bit of its punch. It doesn't help matters that this section of the film is done in pseudo-documentary, Project Greenlight style. I don't think there's anything more stale a gimmick than that right now and it doesn't fit the story at all. This section could easily have been shot in handheld DV to make it different cinematography-wise without having to resort to the fake reality show tropes. Watch this -- this is supposed to be footage from a reality show but like every other scene in this section of the film it works perfectly well without that idea hovering over it.



McCarthy basically lays out the mystery of the film in the end of the first section but we don't really understand what she was explaining until the third part. I won't go into it because it would be a spoiler and honestly you could go into a whole essay on trying to explain the premise of the movie. It's not a great film but I have to give it some appreciation for it's grand scope. I wasn't as entertained as I was watching the paint-huffing Southland Tales but I enjoyed seeing this conspiratorial spiritual journey play out.

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