Nine Lives

on October 14, 2005 by Annlee Ellingson
Keeping with the subject and structure of his previous projects "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her" and "Ten Tiny Love Stories," writer-director Rodrigo Garcia here drops in on nine different women at key, emotionally charged moments that encapsulate their lives as a whole. There's the very-pregnant Diana (Robin Wright Penn), whose unexpected late-night supermarket encounter with an ex-lover reignites an extinguished flame. There's the damaged Holly (Lisa Gay Hamilton), nearly crawling out of her skin, who returns home after an extended absence to confront her stepfather. And there's the acerbic Lorna (Amy Brenneman), who pays her respects at her ex-husband's wife's wake, only to realize her role in the woman's tragic death. Occasionally, characters from one story reappear in supporting roles in another. Other times, the vignettes are completely unrelated to the rest. But throughout is woven the theme of women trapped -- behind bars, in relationships, by their bodies.

Clearly women love working with Garcia: Several actresses in "Nine Lives" -- including Brenneman, Hamilton, Glenn Close and Holly Hunter -- have appeared in his previous films as well. This recurring collaboration has to do with the complex characters he creates and organic performances he elicits, cultivated by nine long, unblinking takes running 10 to 14 minutes each. There's little setup and virtually no backstory for these women. Their stories evolve, and we learn everything we need to understand them completely as the scene unfolds in real time. Moreover, the writing here is especially eloquent -- Garcia is the son of novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- suffused with maxims that somehow transcend the maudlin. Starring Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Elpidia Carrillo, Glenn Close, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Holly Hunter, Amanda Seyfried, Sissy Spacek and Robin Wright Penn. Directed and written by Rodrigo Garcia. Produced by Julie Lynn. A Magnolia release. Drama. Rated R for language, brief sexual content and some disturbing images. Running time: 111 min

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