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09/17/2007 - THE NINES

THE NINES by Tom McCurrie

Most movies tend to spoon-feed audiences, telling them what to think, how to feel and exactly what is going on at all times (think of any of this summer's blockbusters and you'll know what I mean). Even the so-called "twists" these movies deliver are fairly predictable and thus hardly seem like twists at all.

But there is a select (and hopefully growing) group of movies that don't spoon-feed audiences. They don't tell you what to think, how to feel and certainly don't keep you apprised of what's going on at all times - they want to make the audience work for their supper by forcing them to figure out all these things for themselves. These are movies that may make sense moment to moment, but don't seem to be leading in any predictable direction overall, mimicking the structure of dreams which seem to be making themselves up as they go along. And because of this, the twists that arrive really shock and surprise you, prompting you to go back and watch the movie over and over again to see the clues you missed that would have tipped you off to those twists in the first place.

If you like the latter type of movie, you'll love THE NINES, the directorial debut of John August, one of the most successful screenwriters working in Hollywood today (CHARLIE'S ANGELS, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY).

Working from his own script, August tells three stories in THE NINES: a TV actor under house arrest for a drug-fueled bender begins to experience mysterious, possibly even supernatural, phenomenon in the house where he's imprisoned; a TV producer is pressured by the network to recast the lead in his show, a woman who has been his best friend for years, or else that show will never make it to air; a videogame designer comes across a fetching but enigmatic woman in the woods who soon leads him on a sinister journey.

As intriguing individually as they are, these seemingly disparate plots seem to have little relation to each other, with the exception that the same actors (Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy) play the lead roles in all three episodes (Reynolds is especially fine, showing much more talent and range than he did in all the duds between VAN WILDER and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR put together). But this repetitive casting serves to be a major clue to one of the most original and mind-blowing twists you'll see on film this year, one which makes you view all that came before in a completely different light, including the title itself.

Still, THE NINES does suffer from some pitfalls. Two out of the three stories focus too closely on the TV industry, which may make them a bit too "inside" for general audiences to relate to emotionally. Not enough people work in showbiz to understand the peculiar pressures that come with acting, writing and directing for the small (or big) screen. And the fact that the film is split into three discrete sections means the audience has to divide their rooting interest amongst three different protagonists, which makes them care about each a little less, despite the fact that all three are played by Reynolds.

But if you want to be challenged as well as entertained by your movies, THE NINES has your number.

Responses, comments and general two-cents worth can be E-mailed to gillis662000@yahoo.com.

(Note: For all those who missed my past reviews, they're now archived on Hollywoodlitsales.com. Just click the link on the main page and it'll take you to the Inner Sanctum. Love them or Hate them at your leisure!)

A graduate of USC's School of Cinema-Television, Tom McCurrie has worked as a development executive, story analyst, screenwriter and teacher of screenwriting. He lives in Los Angeles and is currently working on a truly awesome novel.


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