A TV actor (Ryan Reynolds) goes on a bender before crashing his car after smoking crack with a hooker. Under house arrest, he hears noises and sees hallucinations that suggest a haunting. However, the truth is much stranger, and a portal to other dimensio
What’s going on? Why are we here? We’ve all thought these things, many of us while watching McG’s big-screen adaptation of Charlie’s Angels. But who would ever have thought that the co-writer of that big-budget blunderbuss could craft something as intelligent as The Nines, a film that blends edgy indie realism with bizarre metaphysical surrealism? The result plays like Todd Solondz’s take on The Matrix, providing much needed provocation and genuine food for thought.
The Nines owes much to screenwriter-turned-director John August’s debut screenplay, Go, a sort of rave-generation Pulp Fiction. The Nines is split into three too, starting with The Prisoner, in which Ryan Reynolds plays a jumped-up TV star; then Reality Television, in which he plays a waspish, prissy TV producer; and finally Knowing, which may or not be the show that’s being discussed so often in the mid-section. It would be unfair to reveal how August makes the connection, but suffice it to say that Reynolds’ characters form part of an unexpected grand design.
Reynolds pulls off the various incarnations surprisingly well. Gary, the bratty, indulgent TV star, suggests a certain fearlessness, but the moody Gavin is much more of a stretch. Based on August’s own experiences in TV development, this section ditches the amiable lunacy of the first in favour of something darker. And in the final part, Reynolds pulls it all together as the beatific Gabriel, a computer programmer saved by an intervention that pulls the rug from under everyone.
The Nines has been compared, not always favourably, to the work of Charlie Kaufman, although August’s film is arguably more human. But the film’s quiet power comes from its mood. August does a tidy job of making dream-logic mainstream, turning visual rhymes and echoes into an entertaining and accessible metaphysical (sort of) thriller. Special mention must go to co-stars Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy, who similarly reappear in new guises as Gary/Gavin/Gabriel makes his spiritual journey.
All of which makes The Nines sound like some kind of terrible Hollywood vanity project. It isn’t. Flawed it may be, but August’s film is one of the most fascinating and potentially infuriating of the year. Love it or hate it, it’s not there to be ignored.
An intriguing post-modern take on TV, film and gaming culture, with a revelatory performance from the former Van Wilder.