Guido is also matched by an ensemble of extraordinary Hollywood women doing some of their best, most playful work. Throughout the film, Guido, a womanizing, self-destructive cad, juggles visions of his wife (Marion Cotillard), his mistress (Penelope Cruz), his muse (Nicole Kidman), his saucy friend and colleague (Judi Dench), a flirtatious reporter (Kate Hudson), his childhood seductress (Fergie), and his dead mother (Sophia Loren). Each of the 7 women get their chance to shine in a fiery solo and together they present a map of Guido's darkly self-serving mind.
It would be fair to criticize Rob Marshall's Nine as an indulgent, over-the-top collection of disconnected musical moments. The narrative (based on the Broadway musical of the same name which itself is based on 8 1/2) flies free and only casually touches on key plot points. And while the "musical fantasy" format worked perfectly in Marshall's breakthrough Chicago, the performance numbers here (also imagined) mix less neatly with the narrative dialogue scenes. All of this is true and yet the performances by the massive big-name ensemble are so wonderful and Marshall's visual style as a stage director is so strong that the film still works far better than it logically should. By film's end, Marshall's odd visual rhythms start to feel precise and the unhummable, melodramatic score (written by Maury Yeston) starts to fully develop its charms. This is a transporting effort which, if resisted, will be grating but when indulged can be a wholly satisfying visual and musical spectacle.