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The Nines

A movie directed by John August

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Wildly ambitious, lots of head-scratching fun -- smarts without smarmy

  • Feb 5, 2008
An actor has a bad trip after a bad breakup and ends up in house arrest -- but either he is losing his mind or he is not who he thinks he is and things are not what they seem. This is one of those metaphysical puzzler films, that is fun and engaging at a number of levels but at its deepest has you working out what it all means. In films like this you think they are going to back down from the broadest ambitions, that it's all going to be a dream or a game and everything will work out so that you can go home happy, since it didn't really mean anything and didn't try to say anything. Luckily, this film went further than that. It takes its conceit all the way and leaves you hanging at the end -- asking big philosophical questions like: what does it mean to claim, like Leibniz (as parodied in Voltaire's Candide) that this is the best of all possible worlds? The film feels like Borges for the youtube generation, and really goes as deep down the rabbit hole as some of the Argentine's best puzzlers. It's hard to be a lot more specific without spoiling the film.

The performances in the film, especially by the three leads (Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy) are uniformly excellent and surprisingly versatile. There is nothing terribly unusual or interesting about the look of the film -- stylistically, the film feels a bit like television ... and this may be appropriate since one of the sequences of the film is about a director of a television pilot ... in fact this film feels like it could have been adapted for a television pilot, for a series I would definitely watch -- shades of Twin Peaks but grander in its metaphysical ambitions and humbler in its stylistic excesses.

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review by . February 02, 2008
THE NINES is a film that may seem like a tough story to follow, but the concept and the 'autobiographical' script by the gifted John August are so fine that once seen, this film demands re-visiting. It is tremendously entertaining, blessed with a superb cast, and offers food for thought far beyond the running time of the film. For this viewer it falls into the 'brilliant' category.    More of an existential exercise than a traditional movie tale, THE NINES has the courage to …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #68
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … more
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Worlds collide in most unusual ways inThe Nines, marking the feature directorial debut of John August, screenwriter of such offbeat wonders asBig Fish,Corpse Bride, andTitan A.E.. Ryan Reynolds plays Gary, a Hollywood television actor whose crack cocaine escapades land him under house arrest. A no-nonsense publicist (Melissa McCarthy) who specializes in rehabilitating bad-boy stars for public consumption keeps Gary in line until a sexy neighbor (Hope Davis) makes him wonder if his reality is truly all it seems to be. Indeed, once the question is asked, another world washes away the last one: this time Reynolds plays Gavin, a TV showrunner whose best friend (McCarthy) is dropped from his new series after a network executive (Davis) manipulates him. A watchful viewer ofThe Nineswill begin to note that certain themes and bits of dialogue overlap the first two segments of the film, and that certain key lines (e.g., "You’re not a man") are laced with double meanings. A haunting resonance, a sense that everything is imbued with some unknown quality or secret, overtakes one’s deepest experience of the movie. That feeling only grows in the final third of the story, in which Reynolds becomes Gabriel, a doting husband and father who leaves his wife (McCarthy) and child (Elle Fanning) with their stalled family car while he fetches help. Along the way he meets a wary stranger (Davis), and nothing is the same again. Everything loops into everything else in August’s clever ...
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Director: John August
Screen Writer: John August
DVD Release Date: January 29, 2008
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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