The Nines

The Nines

2007, R, 99 min. Directed by John August. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy, Hope Davis.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 28, 2007

The Nines is the feature-film-directing debut from screenwriter John August (Go, Big Fish), but it feels much more like some Bizarro World collaboration between Jean-Paul Sartre and Charlie Kaufman, and not in a good way, either. Granted, no one can accuse August's film of being intellectually or metaphysically dull: There's enough tricky mind candy laced throughout the film to make audiences think they're watching something outlandishly clever, and initially the film plays like The Prisoner meets The Twilight Zone. However, by the time this three-segment film unspools its last, viewers are more likely to be scratching their heads than rushing off to enroll in Number 9 Is Just Number 6 Upside Down: Being, Nothingness, and Obscurantist BBC Television of the 1960s 101. Reynolds gives three rich, multilayered performances that never quite jell in the manner August clearly hoped. In the first, Reynolds plays a television actor in a tailspin who – after setting his home on fire and going on a wacky crack binge and flipping his car – ends up under not-his-house arrest, monitored by a cheerful, plucky PR flack (McCarthy) and wooed, sort of, by a semicreepy neighbor (Davis). There are intimations of madness afoot (What's with that Post-It Note that reads, "Look for the Nines," anyway?) before a sudden, inexplicable scene-change reveals Reynolds' next incarnation. This time he's a harried Hollywood show-runner who's trying to get his pilot aired on network TV, an uphill battle rife with betrayal and less-than-intriguing intrigue. (In another of the film's recursive themes, the show in question stars real-life actress Melissa McCarthy. And it's overseen by network snake Davis.) Finally, Reynolds appears as a vacationing video-game designer married to McCarthy's character and lost in the woods with Davis, who may or may not be evil. Got that? Me neither. August's film is a puzzle box all right, but it lacks a satisfying answer. We're led to believe multiple possibilities throughout the film, but no clear answer (or even a foggy one) is ever offered, which may be August's point: In Hollywood, nothing is ever as it seems, especially for writers. Which, of course, just gives more ammunition to those who think writers are self-indulgent, whiny wing nuts who'd be better served – and better serve – by relocation to some unnamed island overseen by Patrick McGoohan and, perhaps, Robert McKee. (John August and Ryan Reynolds will be present at the two Friday night screenings.)

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Ryan Reynolds Films
Once Upon a Deadpool
Deadpool is back ... and he brought Fred Savage with him

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 14, 2018

Deadpool 2
The uncanny merc with a mouth returns with paternal instincts

Richard Whittaker, May 18, 2018

More by Marc Savlov
Cold Pursuit
Liam Neeson is Mr. Plow ... with a vengeance

Feb. 15, 2019

2019 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentary
Tales of love and hate dominate these Oscar hopefuls

Feb. 8, 2019


The Nines, John August, Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy, Hope Davis

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle