A troubled actor under house arrest for arson. A television writer juggling both creative and political concerns trying to get his show on the air. A video game designer trying to find help for his stranded wife and daughter. What do these three men have in common? Well, they’re all played by Ryan Reynolds, for one thing, but the nature of their connections is the mystery at the heart of John August‘s thought-provoking but maddening The Nines.
The Nines contains three stories which more or less add up to one larger meta-story. Each episode features the same three actors in roles which roughly correspond consistently: Reynolds is the focus; Melissa McCarthy is someone important to him in some way; and Hope Davis tries to keep McCarthy’s character away from him. Each story includes numerous callbacks (or call-forwards) to the others. To say more than that starts to eat into the fun of the movie, that piecing together of little bits of information and visual clues.
The Nines (2007)
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Reynolds in particular makes the most of his multiple roles. It’s easy to think of him as something of a one-note actor because most of the time he suffers from Movie Star Syndrome: he’s handsome enough and charismatic enough and naturally funny enough to carry a role by essentially playing himself (or so it seems; it’s not like I’ve ever met the man). But in The Nines, he shows that when given a part which requires it, he actually can act. Two of his roles here are well within his regular wheelhouse, but in the second segment, he plays a thinly-veiled version of writer-director August: his turn as a reserved, driven gay man runs refreshingly against the normal Ryan Reynolds type, and it give me hope that he’ll find more roles in the future which can bring this level of work out of him.
(On a side note, I’d like to say that I was very happy to see Gilmore Girls‘ Melissa McCarthy given such a large part in a movie. Her performance here was mostly nothing exceptional, one scene of barely-contained rage withstanding, but it’s always nice to see an actress who so flouts conventional Hollywood wisdom about body image get to do her thing in a major role and remind people that there’s more than one way to define beauty. Of course, this movie wasn’t especially Hollywood in the first place…)
The Nines kept me intrigued through its first two thirds, but the conclusion gave me a serious case of whatthefuckitis. I can’t say that the ending didn’t play fair or set itself up properly, because it did, but I kept waiting for some indication that there was another layer to be peeled back to give me the real ending. Even though everything we’d seen in the previous ninety minutes had indeed been building toward this particular conclusion — in retrospect, anyway — the final nine minutes of The Nines seemed very much like a left-field copout. I’d rather have had a much more open, vague ending than having something decisive but which felt so awkward. Watch this movie to enjoy Reynolds’ performance, but don’t go in expecting to have everything wrapped up satisfactorily.