Saturday, February 2, 2008

Movie Review: The Nines

It's been a few days now since I saw The Nines, and despite the amount of time and thought I've invested, I'm still no closer to resolving my own ambivalent feelings with regards to this movie.

Broadly speaking, "The Nines" is a rubber-reality movie in the vein of "Jacob's Ladder", "The Machinist" and "Stay", in which the world seems to come unglued around our protagonist(s) and a final twist unveils the plausible and quasi-rational explanation, causing us to look at the entire film in a new light.

"The Nines" does this... after a fashion. It presents a series of three subtly-interconnected stories in which a trio of actors - Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy and Hope Davis - play three different sets of characters, each with their own stories to tell. There's little point in analyzing each segment separately, because the pattern is the same every time: weirdness escalates until an abrupt ending materializes, at which point we're shunted to the next story without any real resolution.

When it comes to the rubber-reality sub-genre, the critical eye tends to fall most strongly on the denouement, the moment where the big twist comes into play and everything is meant to make sense. In "The Machinist", this was when Trevor finally recognized his "stalker"; in "Stay", it was after Henry's self-destructive guilt finally came to a head. Even "Donnie Darko" follows a sort of internal logic, provided you don't overanalyze the mechanics of time travel (that way lies madness and unhealthy attachments to websites promising you bigger breasts and penile enhancements).

But what happens when that ultimate explanation doesn't quite work? What if the denouement comes so far out of left field that suspension of disbelief - the mechanism that allows you to watch these movies in the first place - collapses? That's exactly what happens with "The Nines", in which the twist goes cosmic in, like, a Jim Starlin way, and I still don't know if I can accept the "truth".

Said "truth" is as follows: Ryan Reynold's character (we'll call him G for short) is "a multidimensional being of vast, almost infinite power" that has been creating, decreating and recreating the world, casting himself as a character in his own story. So Gary the actor, Gavin the writer and Gabriel the loving husband are all one and the same, and he's been doing this for so long that he doesn't remember where he came from. In comes Sarah (who is also Susan, who is also Sierra), another demigod who's come to break G out of his self-constructed prison and take him home. Unfortunately, he's become rather attached to Margaret/Melissa/Mary, a human woman who forms a connection with G in every incarnation (it's not clear whether he created this woman each time, or whether he just rewrites her identity after every "reboot").

And by the way, the film also establishes that koalas are weather-controlling telepaths, so now we know who's to blame for Hurricane Katrina. I just know that somewhere out there, Grant Morrison has woken up in a sweat, inexplicably feeling like he's missed an opportunity.

It's... a bit much, really. Setting aside the obvious question - if G creates both the world and his role in it, why is he so miserable each time? - this revelation isn't really contingent on the story that preceded it. I could've accepted a psychological explanation (because that's where the movie seemed to be heading), or even some kind of Matrix-ish "fake world" scenario... but cosmic godlings hooked on MMORPGs? Really?

On the other hand, the fact that the twist completely shatters my suspension of disbelief is partly because it's so unorthodox - I mean, of all possible explanations, I would never have guessed that particular one was the answer. And I have to admire the brass tacks it'd take to produce something so outlandish, regardless of the fact that it problematizes the film's final act - once the truth was revealed, I spent the rest of the movie in "Yeahbuhwhat?" mode and that was that.

This is what makes the rubber-reality sub-genre so frustrating: "The Nines" has a lot going for it, not least of which is its cast - Davis, Reynolds and McCarthy do a great job playing very different personalities in the space of ninety minutes. It'd be easier to write the film off had it been a complete dud, but it's not. At the same time, the denouement is so "out there" that, in my opinion, it derails the whole momentum of the story. Still, I suppose it's worth watching at least once, just for the severe head-trip that's sure to follow.




After many discussions with other about the movie I believe that "S" the neighbor/exec/hiker is the Devil. She is always promoting evils. Story 1 she brings alcohol and temps G. #2 She gets rid of "M", and in #3 she tries to kill the guy.

Also, is the movie really about G, is he really the protagonist or is it really Ms character??

Diana Kingston-Gabai


It's an interesting interpretation, but I'm not sure the movie can support it - if only because G ends up going "home" with S and that's not portrayed in a negative light.

I'd also argue that G is the protagonist, because all the other characters exist solely in relation to him: M's function in each reality is to help him, S keeps trying to wake him up, etc. He's the one who makes choices, M just plays whatever role he assigns her.



I'm not too sure bout this but maybe for a while you stop concentrating on Gavin/Ryan Reynolds and look at it from M's perspective.....look at it this way M was a substance abuser or a has is a wee bit psychotic. Bear with me.For now we will go with the substance abuser role. She has created him and he is the addiction epitomized as a person.The addiction creates different worlds. She doesnt want to let go off him and looks for different ways to keep him with her. Susan/Sierra is the voice of reason within herself(M)who is epitomised as a person.She in all the parts is trying to get G away from M.And the whole point of the 7's and the 9's is that the 9's can create their own world and can destroy the whole world.That world is the world tht they created because of the 7's addiction.They cannot become 10's, a 10 is God because the world they created exists but exists only in a persons head but the world that a 10 would create would exist for real.So in the end whether she was suffering from some mental illness or substance abuse the 9 which is ryan reynold is finally cured or rehabilitated and the kid knowing that he wasnt coming back could be because M was going through her substance abuse stage when the girl was conceived of if the girl also suffers from the genetic mental illness.

Everything said and done i would go with the substance abuse story as tht makes most sense.

Diana Kingston-Gabai


Again, it's an unconventional interpretation - I just don't think the film gives you enough leeway to support that reading of the story. After all, M isn't the focalizer: we never get to see the story from her point of view, and she certainly has no say with regards to what G does to her and the world around her. She just becomes whoever he needs her to be. The writers are very explicit about the fact that M is just another character in G's story, especially during the sequence where she's an actress and he's a writer.



Wow the above comment from 'anonymous' about M actually being the protagonist does make me think!

However I have some different enterpretations. Before I start my explanation I want to take a guess at who G, M and S are. From a theological point of view I'd say G is God, S is Sophia the voice of reason and M is Mary from the bible.

I think the movie was about writing a film and a character which personifies God- if there is one. It acts out what it theoretically would be like for a god/creator. I think it explores the intresting idea of what it would be like for a God to fall in love with a human- how would it happen and feel for that being and how would he deal with it etc. Mainly it focuses of the persona of God and answers many of our questions- ie 'would a God experience his own world or watch from afar' 'Why, if we have a God does he let natural disasters happen'. (the answer being koalas).

However it also touches on the point that actually, we cannot realistically imagine what it would be like because God is so much beyond human thought and language. It does this by setting the movie around God when he is experiencing/playing with the world he made i.e. when he is playing at being human- so we see him from a human perspective. This certainly was a mindboggling way to do it, but interesting none the less.

S, Sophia the voice of reason (in the bible a godess) controls and manipulates each story and God. I think that in the Bible she is the wisdom and the consultor of God. So I think portrays this well. It is interesting and a real bonus to me that they included her. Firstly it shows to me that the writers were educated and didn't go with a small minded take on the Bible etc.

I especially like how when God is being human he really makes himself one and not a perfect one either.

I know thought that my enterpretation has one major hole- ie M says he's not God as he is a 9 not a 10 but I think this is just so there is room for theological and anyway if God did exist I think there good be room for improvement.

If my enterpretation is correct I think the film could have also looked at other 'nines' of other religions not just christianity but I mean the film was already hard to follow. Especially with what seemed to be a perception of reality looking into a perception of reality looking into a perception of reality...

Talking about reality though I would like to build upon 'anonymous'' take on the movie and say that all the hints about G not actually being a man and the way the movie finished with M being the last person we 'really' see.. however I thinks that's more to show that God is compassionate and did love M and was able to keep her living happily.

Anyway cool:) just my take on things. Comments and criticisms would be welcomed:D.

Hannah, 17.

Diana Kingston-Gabai


Fair enough, though I'd argue that giving the story an entirely Biblical interpretation is inherently limiting, as everything becomes a one-to-one allegory...