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Arts and Entertainment

Movie Review: The Nines

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We need more movies like The Nines. While it may only make complete sense to its creator, John August, there's enough in it to puzzle and delight that I recommend it without reservation. It raises and (sort of) answers questions about the nature of existence, the multiplicity of universes and the role of a Creator in both. It features one of the best performances of the year by--of all people--Ryan Reynolds and heralds the arrival of noted screenwriter August as a distinct and welcome directorial voice.

The film itself is broken into three parts that interconnect: "The Prisoner", "Reality Television" and "Knowing". Reynolds plays a different character in each, as do co-stars Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy. In "The Prisoner", Reynolds is a drug-addled TV star under house arrest. Davis plays the horny housewife next door while McCarthy is his giggly but hard-ass publicist. After a few days in the house, strange things begin to happen. He sees things, hears things, finds cryptic messages, but just as he's about to learn the truth--whoosh!

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That world ends and a new one begins. In this world, Reynolds is a hot-shot TV showrunner, Davis is a network executive and McCarthy is one of Reynold's oldest friends as well as the star of his new show. Everything appears promising and wonderful: the network is behind the show, everyone is about to become very rich (or are they?) and then--whoosh! Another world ends, another begins. Now we're inside that TV show. Reynolds is a video game designer and McCarthy is his wife. Their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Whoosh!

I think you could make a very good case that The Nines is specifically about the worlds and characters that live inside a writer's mind, existing as he wills them to and dying when he so chooses. Conversely, I think you could also make a compelling argument that this is way too linear an interpretation of the film. August certainly gives you enough material to go either way. Everything's not always completely focused--some coincidences seem to exist only so you'll notice them and spin out some new connection--but it's all damned involving.

In the final summation, that may be the best praise I can give The Nines. It's often confusing, even occasionally cloying in the way it delivers its clues ("look for the nines!), but you do find yourself deeply immersed in trying to unravel the dense tapestry that August has created. In a summer where few movies leave anything to the imagination, I completely enjoyed the opportunity to have my brain teased a little bit.

The Nines is currently playing in Los Angeles.

Photos courtesy of Newmarket Films