Told in three parts, The Nines follows a TV star undergoing rehab, a writer trying to steer his pilot onto a network schedule, and a videogame designer lost in the woods with his family (all played by Ryan Reynolds), as they deal with their individual problems and confront the fact that their realities may be intertwined.
Writer-director John August’s film is an interesting, if weird, combination of comedy, drama and theological mystery. It starts out as just another film about a young star whose career is about to go under thanks to drug and alcohol abuse, moves to a reality-show-like format, and ends with the kind of cosmic understanding that would appeal to Stanley Kubrick in his 2001: A Space Odyssey phase.
Whether it’s actually good is another matter. You know you’re in bizarro-world, for example, when in the first segment Reynolds (excellent throughout), who’s under house arrest, meets neighbor Hope Davis, who narrates part of her life story by singing the old Peggy Lee standard “Is That All There Is?” Other strange notes include a mute child (Elle Fanning) who begins to speak, a crazed man who can see through walls, and a character described as a “multi-dimensional being.”
Here comes the spoiler: Reynolds’ characters are actually God, or some Godlike being who has created all sorts of Earthlike realities as if they were one big videogame, then becomes part of them. The problem is, he’s way too attached to his human-ness (or whatever you want to call it), and has to be coaxed back to his more spiritual realm by certain humans who are in on the gimmick.
Got that? Fortunately, it doesn’t play as idiotically as it sounds (solid down-the-line acting sure helps), although The Nines certainly dances on the edge of idiocy more times than it would like. August isn’t a stranger to this intertwining stories format (he wrote the screenplay to Doug Liman’s Go), but it’s anyone’s guess what he was hoping to accomplish here. The Nines isn’t funny enough to be classified as a comedy, weird enough to attract cult attention, nor spiritual enough to be mind-blowing. It’s a curious hybrid that will be hard-pressed to find an appreciative audience.