To paraphrase, ‘None merits the name of Creator but God and the screenwriter'

The Nines

on August 31, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
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Having scripted projects popular both in the multiplex (the Charlie's Angels franchise) and at the arthouse (<i>Go</i>), frequent Tim Burton collaborator ( Big Fish , Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , Corpse Bride ) John August uses his directorial debut to meditate on the craft of writing and the relationships among author, actor and character. Not content to stop there, though, he equates a creator to the Creator, which while analogous is also lofty—but not entirely unsuccessful.

The Nines
is divided into three parallel parts. In the first, Gary (Ryan Reynolds), who plays a cop on TV, accidentally burns down his Hollywood Hills home in a fit of despair after a bad breakup. Reynolds is perhaps at his most enjoyable in these opening moments, as Gary trolls the seedier parts of the city in his Prius, inquiring, “Do you sell crack? Is this crack? Do you know how to do it?” Placed under house arrest under the close supervision of perky publicist Margaret (Melissa McCarthy), he finds solace in another prisoner, Sarah (Hope Davis), whose crime was having sex with her husband, the result being a baby that now keeps her at home. The two women battle for Gary's trust as cabin fever sets in—or is it something more?

Based most closely on August's own experiences, part two, shot like Project Greenlight -esque reality TV, finds Gavin (Reynolds) struggling to save a pilot he's created. Although he wrote the series for her, he has to dismiss his best friend Melissa (McCarthy, playing a version of herself alongside her real-life husband), who just bought a house based on the promise of the show. Davis also reappears as Susan, the ambitious network executive overseeing the project who's looking out for her own career. It's in this act that echoes begin to emerge in dialogue, actions and images. Gary and Gavin not only share the same house, but exist there at the same time—just not on the same plane.

Part three is Gavin's pilot in which video-game designer Gabriel (Reynolds), his wife Mary (McCarthy) and daughter (Elle Fanning) get stranded in the woods due to a dead car battery. Gabriel heads out for help, stumbling upon hiker Sierra (Davis), who is familiar with his work due to a gamer ex but it turns out knows him on much deeper terms. Gabriel's Biblical name grants a clue as to where things go from here.

A mind-bender that likely benefits from repeated viewings, allowing the moviegoer who now knows what's coming to fit all the pieces together on a second pass, The Nines blurs the boundaries between reality and unreality, smudging the line between creators—of scripts, characters, games, even celebrity—and their creations. Taking this where he does, August creates (there's that word again) an implication that some viewers may find uncomfortable.

Which is perhaps his point. As a writer, August creates and manipulates characters and the worlds they live in for his—and our—enjoyment. Sometimes these creations become as real to him—and us—as the people in real life. So, when he finishes a project or departs one, leaving his creations to their own devices, in a sense he's abandoning them. And he doesn't like it any more than they do.
Distributor: Newmarket
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, Melissa McCarthy and Elle Fanning
Director/Screenwriter: John August
Producers: Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen and Dan Etheridge
Genre: Mystery drama
Rating: R for language, some drug content and sexuality
Running time: 99 min.
Release date: August 31, 2007 NY/LA
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