Gary is upside down. After a handle of booze and a sizable crack rock, Gary (Ryan Reynolds) lands his car upside down the old fashioned way and ends up under house arrest with a cheery publicist named Margaret (Melissa McCarthy). He’s hoping a romance with his mysterious neighbor Sarah (Hope Davis) will cure his boredom.
Gavin (Ryan Reynolds) is desperate to see his pilot television series get picked up by the network. He’s written it specifically for friend Melissa McCarthy (Melissa McCarthy), but when executive Susan (Hope Davis) tells him that Melissa can’t star, he’s forced to choose between a friend and his passion.
Gabriel (Ryan Reynolds) is enjoying the countryside with his wife Mary (Melissa McCarthy) and his daughter Noelle (Elle Fanning). When their car breaks down, he meets a jogger named Sierra (Hope Davis) who inexplicably wants to steal him away from his family.
If you’re confused, you’re right where screenwriter/director John August wants you.
The Nines is all of these stories – interlocking their themes and meanings as each plot plays out. Each character is the same person, played by the same actor, but living different lives that bump into one another. In an effort to be more confusing, it’s also fundamentally a science fiction film. But The Nines isn’t convoluted or difficult without a purpose, and that purpose is entertaining to the core.
The brilliant story, told in three parts by veteran scribe John August in his first spin with the director’s chair, plays out like a character study inside a padded cell. At any point, it’s difficult to tell whether all the characters are crazy or whether you are. But it’s not psychedelic. Far from it. It’s realistic and savvy, giving the audience every reason to believe that things are as they should be while giving every indication that things are horribly wrong beneath the surface.
The writing takes off with strong performances from Reynolds, McCarthy and Davis. The three of them give three separately engaging reasons each to love this movie. Reynolds is gripping as an egomaniac, a neurotic, and a family man whose world is falling apart. McCarthy echoes Kathy Bates’s Misery performance to swing flawlessly between loving and obsessed. Davis pulls a similar changing act, commanding attention as sexy, vicious and caring.
And these multi-layered dimensions don’t exist because there are three characters – they exist within each character and within each story. Along the way, the same crew of day players seems to crop up as sign posts for Reynolds’s fantastical inner-body experience.
August also doesn’t disappoint while wrapping everything up, because instead of relying on cheap tricks – and even listing them as the film goes on as failed explanations – he gives a satisfying explanation to his phenomenon without leaving anything too tidy. There’s no true twist moment; everything unravels as the truth comes together. You realize right alongside Reynolds what’s going on, but August leaves you to figure out exactly what that means, and it works magically.
So I can’t quote grasp the tripartite theme. I need one more section to bring everything together:
This review is also, unfortunately, a DVD review, because The Nines is only available at your local rental house. An indie feature, it had a limited release here in the States back in August (which seems fitting), but most movie lovers out there never had a chance to see it.
The DVD has some great featurettes, showing the directing methods of August, discussing the concept with the actors, and even includes a short film called ‘God’ featuring McCarthy. Just a few more reasons to dig this movie.
The Upside: A brilliantly crafted mind-trip that takes place in the real world. Three actors rising to the task of a challenging character study.
The Downside: You might have to pay attention, which is, understandably difficult during these days of short attention spans. And as anxious television director Gavin mentions, “The dumb people might not get it.”
On the Side: The story is autobiographical for John August, with the character of Gavin and his situation mimicking August and a real-life brush with the small screen – a pilot that he wrote for close friend, Melissa McCarthy (who then plays herself). August even lent the production his home for a bulk of the filming.