before nine, or 9, there was the nines. despite its title, it’s not about the supreme court, nor is it a sequel, prequel, or remake. in fact, it’s the opposite of that. it’s a pretty inspired directorial debut of screenwriter john august. his first major screenplay was the pulp fiction-at-a-rave movie, go, which i thought was pretty good. after that he is credited with the charlie’s angels movies and several tim burton movies. so it was probably a wise move for him to make his own movie.
this is certainly one of those cases where the less you know about the movie, the more you’ll enjoy it. the nines is divided into three sections all starring canadian actor ryan “two guys, a girl and a pizza place” reynolds (blade: trinity), hope davis (next stop wonderland, in treatment season 2), melissa mccarthy (tv’s gilmore girls), elle fanning (somewhere, deja vu, daddy day care, close encounters of the super 8), and david denman, pam’s warehouse boyfriend/fiancé from the u.s. office. or fiance if you speak american english.
in part one, the prisoner, van wilder plays a drug addicted actor named gary who is under house arrest. hope davis plays the tempting neighbor and mccarthy is the publicist watching over him. the opening sequence is brilliantly shot considering the budget. it’s manages to be funny at the same time. it’s works in its low-fi way kind of like a twilight zone episode, with a touch of lost highway. as a setup, it’s endlessly inventive without being mere boring expositions as manoj nelliyattu shyamalan would have done (in this case, unbreakale). it works effectively in an entertaining way as a setup for the latter parts of the movie. which makes it more successful compare to most mysteries.
part 2, titled reality television, is shot with digital cameras, to emulate an actual reality tv show. deadpool plays tv writer gavin whose pilot is getting made with hope davis’ network executive, starring mccarthy as the unconventional lead on the tv show. part 2, i presume, is the most autobiographical part for august, who has experiences trying to get a tv show on network tv. to make things more realistic, there are also mentions of gilmore girls, and a cameo by dahlia salem (e.r.) as herself. but in addition to these surface details, this part works so well is because we are starting to see the connection to part one, and where the movie as a whole may be heading. numerous things that i won’t spoil for you connects with part one. with lines and props recurring but in a somewhat different context. it builds on the setups that was part one.
and +1 for having a cameo by the dean from community.
in part three, titled knowing, green lantern plays gabriel, a video game developer who’s on a hiking trip with his wife played by mccarthy, and daughter elle fanning. their car died in the middle of nowhere and with cellphones not working, he runs into a lone hiker played by hope davis.
i wouldn’t want to go on with any further descriptions. let me say that the three part structure doesn’t work like new york stories or eros, but also not quite as tied together as pulp fiction or go. and in this case it’s an asset. it’s kinda fun to look for hints and clues throughout the movie though a second viewing is recommended but not required.
ryan reynolds is good enough i suppose, as he usually is. though he’s not so incomparable that i can’t imagine someone else in the role. ben affleck or ron livingston would have been fine in his place.
the central conceit isn’t used as the premise like number 23 or academic and cold like drowning by numbers (the number nine appears in various different ways). what’s most interesting is that what we see and think remain somewhat of a constant but the contexts change in the background. its various meditations on the role of the creators, in various aspects of life works impressively. i read them as an actor needing audience, a writer as creator pulling strings, and a game creator as avatars.
as a whole it’s not as deep or involving as it thinks it is, or as successful as mike figgis’ time code or run lola run, the revelations (and the explanation of the title) feel not quite satisfactory and bring up more questions than answers. but the same could be said about most mysteries. if donnie darko or the usual suspects are great puzzles and inception is an obvious mindfuck, the nines is a good little brain twister.
3.5/5 green rings