The king of movie queens
Review: Nine Lives
|Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird... it's a plane...|
it's a chick flick (but in a good way)!
There's no doubt that Rodrigo Garcia, son of Colombian novelist Gabriel García Marquez, is the king of short story cinema. After Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her and Ten Tiny Love Stories, he affirms his title by writing and directing Nine Lives, a prime showcase for far more than nine actresses.
On the technical side, the news is that each of nine stories is photographed in one continuous take, a tremendous logistical feat by Garcia and his cinematographer, Xavier Pérez Grobet. It's no Russian Ark, which told its tale in one 90-minute take, but here the script and performances are strong enough that you don't leave the theater humming the gimmick.
Some segments are stronger than others, of course. While some tell complete stories in 10-12 minutes, others are vignettes and still others more like snapshots of an individual at one moment in time. Each is named for its principal female character.
"Sandra" (Elpidia Carrillo) is a model prisoner in L.A. County Jail until circumstances deprive her of time with her visiting daughter. "Diana" (Robin Wright Penn) runs into Damian, (Jason Isaacs), an ex, in the supermarket. Both are married and she's pregnant but the flame they shared hasn't completely died.
"Holly" (Lisa Gay Hamilton) is a controlling bitch who's decided unilaterally it's time to resolve her problems with her stepfather (Miguel Sandoval) and forces her sister (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) to arrange a meeting. "Sonia" (Holly Hunter) and her husband Martin (Stephen Dillane) reveal the problems in their marriage during a visit to Damian (Isaacs again — several characters figure in more than one story) and Lisa (Molly Parker). Mirrors and an elevator provide constant challenges for the camera.
"Samantha" (Amanda Seyfried) moves back and forth between Ruth (Sissy Spacek), her mother, and Larry (Ian McShane), her wheelchair-bound father. We learn that she could have gone to college back East but has chosen to stay at home to help the family. "Lorna" (Amy Brenneman) goes with her mother ( Mary Kay Place ) to the funeral of the wife of Andrew (William Fichtner), Lorna's ex. A private moment with the widower becomes intense.
"Ruth" (Spacek again) gets out of the house for an assignation with Henry (Aidan Quinn), while in the background we learn how another character ended up where we saw her. Henry talks about connections and, in an apparent dig at the way most films are made, criticizes animal documentaries because "they put the pieces together" that may have been filmed a year apart on different continents.
"Camille" (Kathy Baker) is in the hospital for a mastectomy. She's bitter and frightened. Her husband Richard (Joe Mantegna) is supportive and comforting, even when she says things like, "Ever since I was diagnosed I've been hating your guts." A doctor and nurse are familiar from previous episodes.
Finally there's "Maggie" (Glenn Close), the slightest tale of all. A mother and daughter (Dakota Fanning) visit the cemetery and have a picnic on a grave, presumably that of their husband/father. The girl gives the film's title a second meaning by asking about the "nine lives" of cats, but many of the nine women we've met have been like cats on a hot tin roof.
Garcia may be the greatest "women's director" since George Cukor. He's certainly one of the best male writers the women in the industry have had, at least since the heyday of Davis and Crawford.
Steve Warren is a local actor and film reviewer. His reviews can also be seen weekly in the Sunday Paper.
Rating: (3 out of 4)
Directed by: Rodrigo García
Written by: Rodrigo García
Starring: Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Elpidia Carrillo, Glenn Close, Stephen Dillane, Dakota Fanning, William Fichtner, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Holly Hunter, Jason Isaacs, Joe Mantegna, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Mary Kay Place, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Aidan Quinn, Miguel Sandoval, Amanda Seyfried, Sissy Spacek, Robin Wright Penn
The Adventures of Ociee Nash
Ghost of the Needle
Prayers from Pelham
À tout de suite
Breakfast on Pluto
Everything is Illuminated
Forty Shades of Blue
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Green Street Hooligans
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Lord of War
March of the Penguins
Memory of a Killer
My Date With Drew
The Squid and the Whale
Walk the Line
The Weather Man