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  • baho-131 January 2005
    Director Rodrigo Garcia specializes in directing films composed of numerous vignettes. His characters emerge in more than one segment, creating a tapestry that helps weave together his themes of both connectivity and isolation. He debuted at Sundance in 2001 with Ten Things You Can Tell by Looking at Her, which featured Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Amy Brenneman, Cameron Diaz and many other notables. Close, Hunter and Brenneman all returned for Nine Lives, along with Robin Wright Penn, Dakota Fanning, Sissy Spacek and others.

    It is noteworthy that both of these movies are mostly about women, with men allowed only supporting roles, even within such ensemble casts. As Garcia freely admitted in the Sundance Q&A, he writes women better than men. Also evident in the Q&A is that the women of the cast adored him. And they rewarded him with outstanding performances.

    Garcia treats his characters with a gentle touch, even when revealing their flaws. We feel compassion for them in their anguish. It is as if we have seen each of these women before, but only in passing. Now we are allowed to gaze into their souls, but never for too long. Garcia tells us enough to empathize, but not enough to judge. It felt like I was walking down a sidewalk on a Sunday afternoon, listening to conversations through open windows, catching only a glimpse of each family, but creating a powerful and lasting impression of the neighborhood. That is Garcia's world. And he is becoming master of the genre.
  • Director Rodrigo Garcia is the son of the famous writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Brought up in a literary environment and choosing another medium of communication--the cinema--for himself, the son uses the tool of the father to chisel away at sculpting good cinema. Spoken words, characters, relationships play a major role in the finished product that a reader of Marquez would find easier to appreciate than others.

    Ostensibly, the film is collection of 9 short stories or vignettes of 9 different women. In the first four, some characters appear in other episodes. The last five are connected by the word "connection". The last of the nine remains the most difficult and intriguing and an appropriate one to end the film.

    The film captures each of the nine segments in a single shot without a cut. The film resembles various works of Robert Altman--even the long-shot of "The Player"--and the structure of "Magnolia" and "Crash." What "Nine Lives" has that the others do not is the Marquezian element of magical realism.

    To explain this one has to begin at the final episode. "Nine lives" alludes to the cat. A cat is shown on a gravestone. A mother (old enough to be a grandmother) escorts a young girl (her daughter) to a grave and brings with her not flowers, but a bunch of grapes. She leaves the grapes behind on the grave. The final shot does not show the girl but the mother alone. Whose grave is it? Is the young girl real (or alive)? Did the mother bring grapes for a child who loved grapes, who is now merely a memory for an old woman? The stories are interconnected by relationships (mother-child) episode 1 and 9, parents and children (2 episodes of Holly and Samantha), husband and wife (Camille) and the trio of husband, wife and lover (Diana, Lorna and Ruth).

    To savor the richness of the film, one has to go beyond each segment and look at the links the director provides to see the breaks in relationships and the ultimate reconciliation the full film provides. In the first episode, the viewer sees a break in the relationships. In the finale there is reconciliation even in death. In between, divorced couples consent to sex, a young teenager appears to be more sensible than her quarreling parents by giving up a chance for better education to keep the fragile family together, and another fighting couple remind you of Albee's George and Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" An abused daughter realizes she cannot kill her father. A faithful husband helps his wife get emotionally ready for a mastectomy.

    If there is a flaw, you can point out that it looks at nine women rather than nine men. But then in literature, cats are associated with females rather than men, and the director was born to a family who appreciated literature.

    There is little that is spoken in this film. But each word is important to understand and enjoy the film. It is a film that deserved the Locarno Film festival honors. Personally, I loved the performances of Glen Close, Robin Wright Penn, the lovely Amanda Seyfried, Elpida Carillo and Ian McShane. But the entire cast was great--like any Altman film. Garcia, unlike Altman, stresses on the spoken word, not merely the images and music.

    I saw the film at the recently concluded Dubai Film Festival. Was it a coincidence that Marquez's friend and Chilean filmmaker of repute--Miguel Littin--was outside the cinema hall trying to get a feel of the reaction of the audience to film made by his friend's son without being noticed?
  • I too saw this film at the Sundance Film Festival and was very, very happy with it. It's simply vignettes of nine women's lives (with intercepting characters and mutual acquaintances), the people in their lives and more importantly the relationships in their lives. They're sad and sometimes not so sad, examples of the walls we build around ourselves in our relationships and how we feel bound to people or stuck in situations that we can't escape. It's very well made, with each women's vignette composed of one long 10-12 minute scene (no cuts). The dialogue is completely natural as are the actor's portrayal's of their characters, and the characters seem so real-life, so believably everyday. I couldn't say which story I enjoyed the most, but Robin Wright Penn and Jason Isaac's scene and relationship was especially poignant for me and I thought, amazingly acted. Overall this movie is great and I would recommend it to anyone who is a student of human nature or just in need of a moving film.
  • "Nine Lives" is a valentine to women as a life force (from pregnancy to abortion, and only incidentally about sex, to care-giving and death), and the superb actresses bask like flowers in the sun at the attention.

    Writer/director Rodrigo García creates nine vignettes, each introduced by the central character's name like a chapter heading, as master acting classes. In about ten minutes, each actress, and occasionally their male supporters, go from zero to ten, less through the language, which is so natural it seems improvised, but through their faces, bodies and inflections.

    Each woman faces an emotional crisis involving her relationship with a loved one -- parent, child, lover, husband, sister; sometimes the stories start them at a high point and they reach a catharsis, others are in the midst of a normal day and then get socked with interactions that rock their balance. Each tries to stay in control of their situations, with emotional prices to pay. About half the characters briefly cross-appear in stories that may come before their previous appearance, mostly to add ironic meanings to a situation or dialog that would have a different impact without the added information from the other vignette. A refrain of "I can't stop thinking about you" comes with different meanings about love and guilt or obsession each time, though this is more about connections between people (as symbolized by the webs behind the interstitial name cards).

    The two hander with Robin Wright Penn and Jason Isaacs (with a very creditable American accent, though he seemed to be playing a very similar character as he did on "West Wing") packs a wallop, mostly through Penn's expressions and complete body language, from her eyelids to her fingers to her feet. A shopping walk through the long aisles of your neighborhood supermarket may never have quite the same expectations. Garcia's gliding camera work adds to the emotional freight as by widening and lengthening the frame he gradually reveals more information about the two characters.

    Amy Brenneman paying respects at a funeral builds up in nervousness as we learn more about the complicated background of her relationship with the deceased, then goes for a crescendo in a brief, almost silently dynamic interaction with an explosive William Fichtner. This may be the first time that certain American Sign Language words have been used in a movie.

    Lisa Gay Hamilton's character is so emotionally wrought that you get agitated just watching her, even as we cry over why she's so radioactive.

    Kathy Baker facing surgery reveals more of the emotional complications for couples facing medical issues than a dozen Lifetime TV movies.

    Garcia well shows women caught between strong people, particularly the vignettes with Amanda Seyfried and Holly Hunter, though the latter recalls "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" too much. Molly Parker creates warm chemistry with women as a friend in two stories. Dakota Fanning actually acts her age and seems like a natural child for a change in her vignette with Glenn Close.

    I presume this was shot on digital video, judging by the saturated look of the beautiful cinematography. What will be lost by waiting to see the film on DVD will be the subtle details of the actresses' fulfilling performances that should be seen on a big screen.
  • cadmandu10 November 2005
    I can't add a whole lot to what everyone else has said about this film. It's a series of vignettes that are loosely related. The acting is very good -- after all they got a whole bunch of Hollywood big guns to sign up. And I think the reason they signed up was because for an actor, this film is a bonanza. They get to play very intense emotions in a very tight space, without any dead dialog or perplexing plot (the plot isn't perplexing because there ain't no plot.) So it's a real treat to watch, but if you're looking for something really profound about life, forget it. About the only lesson here is that women are a force unto themselves, and a lot of the time the best you can do is just stand back. Each of the reviewers seems to have their favorite actors out of the nine, but I give them all a gold star for acting, and that includes the men too. BTW this is not a lighthearted romp -- it starts in a prison and ends in a graveyard. Mostly heavy stuff.
  • Those who like their movies big on Hollywood, hilarity, frenetic pacing and neato special effects, are bound to brand Nine Lives with the misogynist "CF" (for chick flick). Do not to listen to them. Rodrigo Garcia (scion of the writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez) is a writer-director who is not afraid to make films that showcase his intellect and humanity -- however noncommercial those qualities may be. He is that rare Hollywood species: a male director who really digs and respects women without the taint of awe or condescension. In fact his films are not really about women, they are more universally about relationships. As the director himself explained after a recent showing of Nine Lives at the Virginia Film Festival, where he was accompanied by the very cool Sissy Spacek and Kathy Baker, as well as the two (female) producers (graduates of UVA's law and business schools); "the film is about relationships that have ended but will never be over." Go see Nine Lives, if only for the single takes -- an exceedingly difficult cinematic feat that beats any special effect.
  • nick rostov21 June 2005
    I just saw the movie and right now it feels like one of my top all time favorites. As in up there with Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and 400 Blows and La Dolce Vita. I don't know why ten fragments of stories should have that power. Maybe because the writing is genius? No pandering to conventional standards of entertainment, just a great author mining vein after vein of truth and freeing his brilliant actors to be intensely fearlessly human at every second. This is the movie that Crash wishes it was (and I thought Crash was awesome). No preaching. No "ideas." Just the human heart on display. Amazing that a woman lying in a hospital bed facing a mastectomy got the biggest laughs--because Kathy Baker, speaking Rodrigo Garcia's lines, so completely captured the frustration and helplessness that all of us have felt that all the audience could do was laugh in recognition. Go see this one.
  • Columbian director and writer Rodrigo García (Things you can tell just by looking at her, multiple episodes of Six Feet Under, Carnivale, The Sopranos, Fathers and Sons, etc) does what few writer/directors are capable of: García observes the human condition, finds the stories that such observations suggests, fleshes out these ideas into vignettes, and then weaves them into a tapestry of a film that is simply breathtaking.

    NINE LIVES is simply the reporting of nine women and their surrounding characters who are coping with an emotional crisis involving relationships with a parent, child, lover, husband, or sister and the manner in which each woman deals with keeping her life intact despite the trials of everyday living. Imagine walking down a street, as a flaneur, observing glimpses of a person and conversation that lasts only as long as the time you approach, pause and pass on by and you have an idea of the technique García uses. These little short stories are the stuff of life we all encounter: García pauses long enough to let them make an impact.

    Part of the beauty of this film is the sterling cast which includes some of our finest actors - Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, K Callan, Glenn Close, Stephen Dillane, Dakota Fanning, Holly Hunter, Jason Isaacs, Joe Mantegna, Ian McShane, Mary Kay Place, Aidan Quinn, Sissy Spacek, Robin Wright Penn - the list goes on. There is a sense of ensemble commitment to this film despite that only occasionally do the characters overlap. The writing is terse, understated, always saying just enough to arrest our attention before moving on, much the way life keeps passing. A very fine work, and one that reminds us that great movies from quiet stories come. Grady Harp
  • I saw Nine Lives this evening at the Virginia Film Festival – both producers (Julie Lynn and Kelly Thomas) were also there, along with Sissy Spacek, Kathy Baker, and Rodrigo Garcia, for a short talk after the screening.

    This is a gorgeous film. It's both strong and delicate, treating the interwoven nine lives of the title with uncompromising authenticity. Each portion is preceded by a woman's name, the name of the woman focused on in that section – and then we dive into what Garcia describes as "looking through the window into someone's house", the examination of nearly fifteen minutes of that life, each done in one take. Yes, just ONE take -- the camera follows and weaves about the characters as in a dance. The result is moving, powerful, luminous.

    The nine lives are not so intertwined as to be confusing – instead, we occasionally recognize faces: "ah, that's the cop from before", "oh, she was the mom in the other story".

    What a pleasure it was to watch a film in a huge, sold-out theater where the audience was so rapt that for many minutes at a time the only sound was the film's dialogue. And what dialogue! Garcia's touch is determined, yet infinitely tender. Each major character is treated with kindness and truth. From the teenage girl called "the heart of the house", to the pregnant woman who unexpectedly runs into her ex-husband, to the frightened, angry woman about to undergo surgery, all show us what they are, how they are underneath – while trying to camouflage themselves from others. They deal with loss, with anger, with connection (I was reminded of E. M. Forster: "Only connect"), and, ultimately, with acceptance.

    Yes, all the stories involve strong feeling, but humans can be very funny – at times the whole audience broke up in laughter! There's not a bad, mediocre, or tired performance in this film, and that includes the smaller roles. If I had to pick one actor as most lambent, however, it would be Robin Wright Penn. She is nearly transparent with emotions fleeting, transitory, erupting and reappearing, as she struggles not to reveal herself.

    Go see Nine Lives. It's a movie to savor and rejoice in. These days, that's pretty unusual . . . but Nine Lives holds hope for our journey toward possibility.
  • Another great movie by Rodrigo García in the same style as "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000)." Garcia shows his literary roots by making the cinematic equivalent of books of collected short stories. Collections of shorts have been done before but I don't remember it ever being done this effectively.

    As a viewer, you have to live with lots of unresolved issues since +- 15 minutes provides only a snapshot of these women's lives. But Garcia rewards the thoughtful viewer as themes emerge from the collection of sketches.

    Like in "Things You Can Tell..." the acting if first-class and scenarios authentic.

    The cast alone makes this movie worthwhile. How does Garcia get such terrific talent? I suspect that his short story format allows actresses/ors to fit in a quick Garcia movie between their big paycheck films, allowing them to up their credibility with an art-house flick. But these aren't throw-away roles... they really give it their best! Of course, you're going to like some segments better than others. I found it odd that Garcia LED with what I felt was one of the weaker segments (The LA Jail). He ends with one of the best (Dakota Flanning and Glenn Close). My favorite was Robin Wright Penn and Jason Isaacs in the grocery store. It touched me very deeply.

    The final story (Flanning and Close) is one of the sweetest and lightest which bring up my biggest criticism of the film... Garcia could lighten up a little. A little more humor and a little more playfulness could really help his next film... and I hope he does make another in this same style.

    My other criticism is of the cinematography which I don't find appealing... it tends to be overexposed and needlessly bleak at times. Admittedly, it does accurately convey both the emotions of the women and the feel of Southern California but I think it is overused. (Possibly he is trying to make the best of low budgets.) In summary.. this film is DEFINITELY worth watching as long as you are willing to accept it for what it is... a collection of snapshots rather than the more developed characters and story that traditional movies provide. If you are renting, I suggest that you also pick up a copy of "Things you can tell..." and have a mini Garcia film festival.
  • "Nine Lives" is a pretty unusual movie: nine slices of life, each a single shot, and each focusing on a female character. The stories are all quiet, everyday dramas, often ending before they achieve a complete resolution, and while a few of the themes are edgy, they're never treated with sensationalism. It's the polar opposite of the flashy, jokey, commercial Hollywood blockbuster.

    Though characters reappear from one vignette to the other, these stories are connected more by theme than by character. There's an obvious theme about the roles that women play-- mother, daughter, sister, wife, etc.--and how these roles can conflict with one another and cause distress. In the first three stories, the main female character gets so distraught that she ends up crying--though a good challenge for actresses, this seems to reinforce stereotypes that women are weepy. Luckily, some of the other women are more resilient.

    Also running throughout is a theme about the impossibility of communication, even between loved ones. Sometimes this theme is dramatized in subtle, effective ways, such as an imprisoned woman talking through glass when her daughter visits, or a teenage girl mediating between her parents. Other times this seems more contrived, especially the decision to make one character's ex-husband a deaf man who uses sign language.

    Because of the recurring characters, "Nine Lives" is also one of those recent Los Angeles ensemble movies about how everyone is connected. (e.g. "Crash," "Magnolia.") Here the connections are clever but not especially profound. Having a puzzle like this to solve while watching the film helps hold your interest, but the puzzle feels incomplete. I was waiting for everything to come together at the end, but the last vignette, featuring Glenn Close and Dakota Fanning in a cemetery, has no characters from the other stories in it. Thematically speaking, though, it's not a bad way to end the movie.

    Ultimately, "Nine Lives" shows that there are just as many pitfalls as pleasures in its unique style of film-making. It's wonderful to be reminded of the potential of long takes, how fluidly cameras can move nowadays and how well talented actors can sustain their performances. But while a typical movie would cut around the most mundane parts of life--people walking from one place to another, for example--"Nine Lives" has no choice but to show this. I also wished for more striking visual imagery or close-ups of the actors' performances, but due to these technical limitations, most of the movie is in medium or long shot.

    Some people would claim that "Nine Lives" is inherently a great movie because it's not flashy or funny or commercial. But after seeing it, appreciating its technical qualities but feeling lukewarm about its overall effect, I've come to realize that flashiness is not always a bad thing. This is a movie that sorely needs some zest and energy in order to feel truly alive.
  • cryptosicko28 February 2006
    The key scene in Rodrigo Garcia's "Nine Lives" comes when Sissy Spacek, hidden away in a hotel room where she is carrying on an affair with Aiden Quinn, find a nature documentary on television, at which point Quinn notes the contrivance of such things--disparate footage is edited into one scene, predators and preys are thrown together in order to capture the moment--all to force connections where none actually exist. Characters in the nine shorts that make up this film occasionally spill over into each others stories, but none of them ever seem to really connect. A woman preparing for a violent confrontation with her abusive father is later seen working in a hospital room where another woman is preparing for a mastectomy. A man who runs into an old girlfriend in a supermarket and sees how his life should have been later hosts, with his current wife, a dinner party for an unhappy couple. Garcia arranges some of his characters in front of each other, but none of the subsequent stories ever really build on what came before.

    Garcia's first film, the wonderful, overlooked "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her," also had a short-story structure and overlapping characters, but there were fewer of them and they had a lot more room to breathe and grow. The gimmicky premise of "Nine Lives," that each of its nine stories is told in a single, unbroken take in real time, never allows the film to build up any real dramatic tension or momentum. It's also a fairly visually ugly movie. Interior shots are often murky and hard to watch, while other scenes--particularly one where a girl walks back and forth between rooms to talk to her uncommunicative parents--are rendered annoying by the camera-work. Given that this is Garcia's third film and that he has a respectable history of directing for television, the direction in this film is rather surprisingly amateurish. Like fellow filmmaker-child-of-a-great-writer Rebecca Miller, Garcia (son of Gabriel Garcia Marquez) is focused on the writing and character aspects of his films often to the detriment of the film-making ones.

    Individual scenes are touching and even affecting. I did like Jason Issacs kissing Robin Wright Penn's pregnant belly. And Joe Mantegna whispering lovingly to his wife as she slips into pre-surgery sedation. And Sissy Spacek stealing a few happy moments away from her life with Aiden Quinn before brought back to it with a phone call from her daughter. But the film (unlike "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her") feels more like an exercise than actual drama. We are just watching people act.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    edittmer-1, you are right on target about the final vignette with Glenn Close and Dakota Fanning. If one doesn't get the point that Close is visiting her own daughter's grave, then the whole segment doesn't make too much sense. The three clues I noticed that showed this was what the filmmaker intended: 1) Close casually uses the word "f*cking" when talking to Fanning, which is inconsistent with being the kind of nurturing parent she obviously was. Fanning responds to this word with indifference, which would also be inconsistent with the precociousness her character shows throughout the scene--if this were really happening, the child would have no doubt reacted to it and called out her mother for using such language. 2) As another poster pointed out, at her age, Close seems like she should be the child's grandmother rather than mother. This is because the child died many years ago. Close's character has aged, but her memory of her child is frozen at the time when she died. 3) Close leaves the grave alone, no child in sight.

    Once I realized what happened--my wife instantly pointed it out to me as we watched, the poignancy of this part of the film really hit me. I don't know how many times I could re-watch it, because the pain and tragedy evoked by it is too much to take, but it is extremely well done and a great achievement by the filmmaker.
  • Some of the effectiveness of this film comes from the camera taking a single shot for the entire segment. The camera follows the main character, occasionally panning to persons or sets to give context. It left me curious as to how many takes were required to get the vignette just right. The actors had to know their lines to get from beginning to end, something of a rarity these days except on-stage.

    Every segment was believable, if occasionally over-wrought; that is, the viewer could agree with the writer/director that someone would act a particular way, but it was not always the most obvious way to act. As with many films, the plot line was often more about persons acting from their impulse rather than acting from their reason. Most of life is not that way, Sarah Palin excepted, but it IS that way for some, and I suppose that makes their lives more interesting than the lives of the folks that live logically. Film makers choose, fortunately, the interesting and sometimes thought-provoking story line over the banal.
  • In a question and answer session with director Rodrigo Garcia and a handful of the film's cast members (available as a special feature on the DVD release), Garcia says that the motivation behind "Nine Lives" was the idea of looking into people's windows and capturing a moment of their lives in real time, without formal beginning or end. If that is the case, tell me what street these people's houses sit on, and remind me never to live there.

    This relentlessly sombre film gives us nine vignettes, each focusing on a moment in the life of a woman. Characters from one segment will appear in another, a gimmick that ties into the film's theme of connectedness but that otherwise has become one big mighty cliché in this day of Tarantinos, PT Andersons and Innaritus (who serves as producer on this film, by the way). The biggest flaw is that this gimmick remains just that -- it forces a structured narrative on a film that doesn't need one, but it doesn't bring any additional nuance to the film. For instance, in a segment featuring Lisa Gay Hamilton as a deeply disturbed woman who comes home to settle scores with her father, we find that the character of the father has already appeared in the film's first segment, as a prison warden, but the connection doesn't tell us anything about him, his daughter or their relationship. Hamilton appears as a nurse in a later segment in which a woman (Kathy Baker) is being prepped for a mastectomy, but again, there's no continuity of character -- we don't know how to relate this calm and sedate nurse to the frantic young woman we saw earlier, and Garcia offers no help -- Hamilton could be playing completely different characters.

    Worst of all, Garcia's vision of life is unnecessarily gloomy and sad. Each woman deals with her own private demon, whether it be lost love, fear of death, loss of a loved one, murderous rage, guilt, regret, bitterness. But the movie is seriously lacking any message of hope. According to Garcia, life is a struggle, but he never illuminates what makes the struggle worthwhile.

    In any movie like this, the selling point is the acting, and it's no surprise that the performances are what make this film most worth watching. Robin Wright Penn, Kathy Baker and Glenn Close, in particular, do smashing work, and Close's segment, which closes the film, may just take your breath away.

    Nice try, but not an unequivocal success.

    Grade: B-
  • NINE LIVES is a must see film for any student taking up Acting as a career because Mr. Garcia has created stories and characters which jump off the screen. Each story, vignette, portrays a different character with intensity and extreme intelligence, and when the frame is complete, you just want more.

    There are so many tremendous performances in NINE LIVES that to try to pick out one would be impossible. You just have to see the film to relish the acting, writing, directing and stories to appreciate what Mr. Garcia has accomplished in this film.

    NINE LIVES and the cast, stories and writing, makes an audience think about each character and his/her story and you want to know more about them in their journey to completion of their lives.

    Thank you Mr. Garcia for bringing this important film and the NINE LIVES to the screen.
  • SimonHeide22 February 2008
    This movie contains nine small movies, each done in one take. The situations are very ordinary and although this idea is splendid, the unfolding of most of the stories are boring to watch as there is little or no point to them. There simply is too little progression or development in these short-stories and we never get really involved. Some of the stories are connected but never in a way that adds anything to a meaning. It is only coincidental.

    Mediocre is the word I find most suitable to describe this movie which means that I can't recommend it. If you like to see movies that deals with everyday life then I would recommend the movies done by Mike Leigh, who is dedicated to description of everyday life, to you (especially "life is sweet").

    Regards Simon

    Ps. When you read reviews that gives max score check to see if the user has made more than one review. If not consider the possibility of a lobbyist. If you agree consider putting this post scriptum at the bottom at your own reviews.
  • I was feeling less than thrilled about the film until Lisa Gae Hamilton's vignette came up. She was so convincing in her portrayal of a desperately torn daughter.

    Kathy Baker's portrayal of a woman about to undergo a mastectomy was right on the money as well. I SO know a woman who would have been exactly the same way in the hospital.

    Joe Montagne's portrayal of her extremely patient husband was very good.

    Does anyone else think that the Glenn Close character was actually visiting her daughter's grave and that Dakota Fanning was the ghost of that daughter?
  • I walked out after the 3rd "segment" because I simply could not watch such crap. My girlfriend stayed while I went to the bar next door. After the movie, she met me in the lobby and we ran out of there as quickly as we could. We did not want to stay for the Q&A with the director afterwords. Terrible over the top acting, and the script treats these women as victims who are unable to help themselves, they have been brought down by (the system, their ex-boyfriend, their father, etc...) and can not will themselves out. Shows no plot, no story development, no character progression, just a "slice-O- life" that makes no sense in the context. One reviewer who loved this movie mentioned it is in the caliber of "The 400 Blows." I hope reviewer has actually seen that movie to make such a bold statement. I give this movie a 2 and not a 1 simply because I think the no-cuts steady cam shots are pretty cool and I know how hard it is to pull off (although the framing was terrible throughout the entire thing) and make work.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Saw the movie as part of the Key Sunday Cinema Club in Atlanta, on October 9. My husband and I weren't able to stay for the discussion, and almost all the reviews talk about the episode with Glen Close and Dakota Fanning as if it were a 'straight' scene. Both my husband and I assumed that the daughter (Dakota Fanning) character was, in fact, the person in the grave that Glen Close was visiting. The Glen Close character puts the grapes on the stone, and leaves daughter in sight. In other words, the little girl died years ago, and her mother visits her grave annually.

    But the New York Times reviewer, and several others, missed that. Only one, Warren Curry, at Entertainment Insiders, seems to take the same view as we did: "In the film's final chapter, a troubled mother (Glenn Close) brings her young daughter (Dakota Fanning) to a cemetery for a picnic. The reason for her despair becomes clear only as the piece closes (and "clear" might be a stretch -- it could feasibly be missed)." I sure hope someone who really knows can help me out here.

  • Warning: Spoilers
    ...which I didn't, then perhaps you would like this movie. Now, I have seen a few "character" or "art" films in my time. Hell, I loved "Three Colors: Blue" by Kiaslovski (I can't spell his name!). THAT movie was well made. THIS movie was awful. I didn't get through the first 2 stories. The first, altho not to my liking, was watchable. It was a woman in prison, and she has problems, the guards treat her bad, she wants to speak to her daughter. Standard prison plot fare. The actress, and I hesitate to call her that, was terrible. I sincerely hope this was her first movie. The thought that an experienced actress would have such trouble with basic emphasis is appalling. Perhaps English is not her native language. That's fine, but that's also what voice coaches & directors are for. Speaking of directors, the guy/chick who made this should be banned from ever making another movie again. I don't know how the script avoided whatever checks normally take place so that the dialogue stays dramatic, not silly, but it did. This is like the diary of the existientialist woman from I heart Huckabees, but far less interesting. I almost wish I could remember some of the things the actresses said, but I'm happier not knowing. I must mention the 2nd sequence. A pregnant woman meets someone from her past in a supermarket. They take 10 minutes to say nothing. She shops for another endless span of time. They talk again. I don't know what they said, because at this point, I was so bored I was watching the movie at 4x speed. I believe the point was she still had feelings for him, or something. I don't know how it ended, because each sequence ends before the stories of the people involved, i.e. no resolution whatsoever. And it went on like this. A woman walks thru her house, talks to people, shoots herself in the head. That moment would have been interesting, had it been shown. For the love of God, something to break up the monotony of this -nothing- movie. I managed a few minutes of the 4th story, slowed it down to hear the talking, wished I hadnt when I realized it was a New Age "feelings" type of rant, ejected the DVD. Bottom line: Don't waste your time.
  • I had a chance to screen this film and then sit for a Q and A with the writer/director, producer, and actress Kathy Baker. Basically, the film is nine 10-12 minute short stories about 9 different women in 9 (somewhat) different life situations. The basic premise behind the idea was that we come right into what would be the plot of a feature film and then leave just as suddenly, whisked onto another tale. Of the 9, 3 were good. For you math lovers, that's not a good ratio. The most revealing critique on this movie came unwittingly from the writer/director himself, Roderigo Garcia, when asked by a moderator about possible endings to one of the tales, Garcia responded "I like to think she wouldn't have done that, but I don't know". YOU wrote the story, YOU are supposed to know, it's YOUR story. Garcia also revealed that he wanted no connections at all between the tales, but decided to 'thinly connect' them when pressured by his producers to make a film that left the audience satisfied. With 1/3 of this movie watchable, I'd say your best bet is to pay for another film, but the pick-ens have been slim this year. Read a book instead.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Nine Lives is a collection of related short stories wherein each is a snippet from a woman's life and each shot in one uninterrupted episode. Their themes include parent-child relationships, fractured love, adultery, illness, and death.It is a series of overlapping vignettes, each one running about the same length and told in a single, unbroken take, featuring an ensemble cast that includes Sissy Spacek,Glenn Close,Holly Hunter,Lisa Gay Hamilton,Kathy Baker,Amanda Seyfried,Amy Brenneman,Robin Wright Penn and Elpidia Carrillo among many others

    In these episodes, Holly has a brief moment of reverie while confronting the specters of her past in her old neighborhood. Maggie escorts her young daughter Maria to a cemetery as they visit the graves of their family members. Ruth is a married woman contemplating an affair while visiting Henry in his hotel room. Diana unexpectedly runs into an old boyfriend, Damian, while shopping for groceries. Camilla is a hospital patient awaiting surgery for cancer.Samantha is a teenage girl who helps look after her handicapped father Larry. Sandra is a female prison inmate who is expecting a visit from her children. Sonia lashes out at her boyfriend Martin when she finds out he's been cheating on her. And Lorna has an unexpectedly moving encounter with her ex-husband Andrew as she pays her respects to his second wife, who has just passed away.

    The film is bolstered by a strong and talented cast ensemble and it features many insightful glimpses into the lives of women from different walks of life.The stories are sketches, often without resolution, and while individual segments succeed admirably, taken together the portraits are a fitful match.Also,it is a movie that demands concentration of the viewer to get the rewards the one is willing to pay attention.Although it is far from a perfect film and some episodes are more interesting and more entertaining than the others,it remains a delight to see.
  • The cast of actors involved in this film would be enough to make me want to see this but something on the trivia section was even more instigating and then I went ahead. There, it was quoted about how the movie was incredibly overlooked by audiences and awards in the year of its release despite receiving favorite reviews from top critics who put this film as one of the top 10 best of 2005. Is it all that good? No, I'm afraid, I've seen better films that year. It is a good film but it doesn't fit such bill.

    In the sense of avoiding old conceits, the vignettes of "Nive Lives" are above the average, which is always good in a world where repetitive stories become box-office hits immediately because most audiences like to know where they're stepping. But, when you see the film as a whole there are times you start to feel out of the experience, left out, trying to comprehend why all the stories doesn't have an ending and why would you embark in such journey if it never puts a dot in its discourses?

    The nine lives of nine female characters are presented in nine short stories of 12 minutes approximately (filmed in one take each, no cuts), sometimes connecting with each other throughout its characters, other times they're just there, forming an emotional connection between them all. There, powerful and moving stories like the sudden encounter between a former couple (Robin Wright Penn and Jason Isaacs) in a supermarket, trying to restart from the point they ended (my favorite segment of all); or the meeting between mother and daughter (played by Glenn Close and Dakota Fanning) talking about things of life and death; the woman (Kathy Baker) fighting against the cancer, being faithfully supported by her husband (Joe Mantegna); and many others stories. What writer and director Rodrigo Garcia makes with all of this is to present a clear and real portrayal of how tough is to be a woman, their desires, fears, wishes, worries and how all of this are perceived in different worlds going from a prison (through the eyes of a female prison inmate) to the simple housewife, mothers, daughters, sisters, etc.

    In a way, I found "Nine Lives" reduced to an certain simplicity, quite shallow, since the director haven't extended that to more possibilities and realities, I mean, where's the powerful women of the world? Where were the hard working professionals or even the ones who go through a lot of trouble dealing with abusive husbands, uncaring sons, that kind of characters? To me, he reduced some of the characters to the extent of being romantic figures coming out of an average literature.

    However, this wasn't the worst problem with this film. The thing that bothered me most was how wearing this film could be as it unfolds with all those vignettes, some very interesting to see, others thoroughly tiresome, boring to the point of asking yourself what you're doing there watching this, a purpose. This movie would be perfect if Garcia would select three stories presented here, make them longer and with a conclusion just like the ones Rebecca Miller presented in "Personal Velocity". Some stories were so engaging, so brilliantly created that when it ended I was like "No, keep going. Why stop here?" and I'm sure this infatuated lots of viewers (I had a similar experience in "Paris Je t'aime" but that's a different story and a better film).

    I can and will suggest this film but only go after if you like the actors involved with it (cast includes Aidan Quinn, Ian McShane, Amanda Seyfried, Sissy Spacek, Lisa Guy Hamilton, Miguel Sandoval, Stephen Dillane, Holly Hunter and others) or if you like film in this style. "Nine Lives" could have been more than it is but it's poetic message and its themes certainly are good enough to be appreciated by its audiences. 7/10
  • "Nine Lives" features outstanding performances and remarkable direction, but as with many films with multiple story lines, you're likely to become frustrated trying to piece the vignettes together.

    Similar in structure to Robert Altman's "Short Cuts" and the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu, who served as executive producer, "Nine Lives" features nine vignettes of women in emotional crises. Each scene is shot in a single take with a Steadicam, which is a remarkable achievement considering the elaborate choreography many of these scenes require.

    The performances are uniformly excellent, but special credit must be give to Robin Wright Penn as an expectant mother who runs into her old boyfriend in a supermarket and Lisa Gay Hamilton as a troubled young woman who has a score to settle with her father. Several of the characters make cameos in other scenes, but the film offers no great "voila" moments where all the relationships fall into place.

    While the whole of "Nine Lives" is less than the sum of its parts, this is a worthwhile film for its remarkable cast and well-directed scenes.
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