The Nines

February 2nd, 2009 DVD Reviews, Film, Xpress

A sly nod to Scientology, David Lynch-inspired mental torture rack or the work of a writer/director who took too much mescaline and quaalades and sat down to write a script?

If you like your mindbenders (see the work of Lynch, Anthony Hopkins’ little-seen pet project Slipstream Dream and Donnie Darko), you’ll love the story of three characters all played by the same man (Ryan Reynolds), or is it one characters inhabiting three bodies in three different universes? Or is it a Lynchian puzzle leaving you to work out which sequence is real, which is a dream, which is a script being imagined by a writer and which is the red herring.

They could all be, or maybe none of them are. Like the illustrious films mentioned above, writer/director John August isn’t interested in telling you the answer to The Nine’s many mysteries. The answer lies outside the film where we can’t see it. Is Gary/Gavin Gabriel an angel, a ghost, a god? And are the two women who feature most prominently in his life/lives (Hope Davis as Sarah/Susan/Sierra and Melissa McCarthy as Margaret/Melissa/Mary) monsters, aliens, guardian angels or something else entirely?

Reading the above you might think this is a sci-fi action mystery with portals to other dimensions and strange invocations to ancient deities in dead languages. But every frame in the movie will have you thinking it’s just a soap opera-ish story about a guy (or is it three guys?). An actor confined to an LA house for forced rehab after a car crash, Gary finds himself babysat by cheery but no-nonsense a publicist. Strange things happen in Gary’s life — not the least of which are running into himself in the kitchen late on night and the world disappearing around him when he steps outside the boundary allowed by his house arrest ankle lock.

Before we have a clue what’s going on, Gary is now Gavin, a screenwriter in the throes of getting a TV show off the ground and having to tread all over friends and principles to do it. After snapping in the face of such stress and believing he’s the subject of a reality TV series, Gavin becomes Gabriel, a thirtysomething family man walking through the wilderness in search of someone who can help him get his car started, where he’s left his wife and daughter at the scene of a family picnic.

Each story ends before the overarching story — whatever it is — resolved, and you’re left with the proverbial enigma wrapped in a riddle. It could be about simply three different universes that overlap, and where the characters can see the joins, everything goes awry.

The first thing you’ll do is watch the commentaries to see if August explains it all, but this is a few hours in a mental gym you’ll enjoy if this kind of movie is your thing.

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