Most of the time,
moviemakers want to be novelists. This is not the case in the films of
Rodrigo Garcia. He tells his cinematic tales like a really good short
story collection. Rodrigo, who has previously worked this style in
Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her, Ten Tiny Love Stories and
Fathers and Sons is very comfortable with the style, and Nine Lives
is his best work yet.
As the title suggests, this
movie takes short stops in the lives of nine diverse and seemingly very
different women. The camera swoops down upon them, observes a short,
trying period of their lives. Each short film is shot on steadicam in
a single long take, there are no cutaways, no time changes, the audience
just eavesdrops on ten to fifteen minutes in the life of these ladies and
then cuts away to the next experience. The stories are quiet and
thoughtful. There are no big explosions, very little action (in the
traditional sense), just conversation and stellar acting.
The film starts with Sandra
(Elpidia Carrillo), who is in jail and trying to be on her best behavior so
that she can see her daughter, but then has a small malfunction unleash all
her anger. Diana (Robin Wright Penn) is a married and pregnant woman
who runs into her married ex-lover (Jason Isaacs) in the grocery store and
is shocked to find that there is still an undeniable spark between them.
Holly (Marcia Gay Harden) is a bitter and emotionally bruised woman who
finally goes home to confront her father.
Sonia (Holly Hunter) is a
woman who is horrified when her boyfriend exposes a very private matter to
friends who have invited them to dinner. Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) is
a teenaged girl who is staying at home rather than going away to college to
help her fed-up mother (Sissy Spacek) care for her invalid father (Ian
McShane). The mother, Ruth, is later subject of her own story when she
plans an affair with another man (Aidan Quinn).
Lorna (Amy Brenneman) is a
divorced woman who causes a stir when she shows up at the funeral of her
ex-husband's wife. Camille (Kathy Baker) is a woman who is in the
hospital for breast cancer and takes out the anger over her deteriorating
body on her husband (Joe Mantegna). Maggie (Glenn Close) is a mother
who has a picnic in a cemetery with her daughter (Dakota Fanning).
There is a lot of
interesting continuity to the stories and several characters recur in
different stories; the prison guard (Miguel Sandoval) turns out to be the
father of the angry woman returning home, that angry daughter (Harden) is
also the nurse in the hospital caring for the cancer patient, the former
lover in the grocery store (Isaacs) later is the rich friend who plays host
to the squabbling couple, his wife later appears at the funeral, and when
the invalid's wife (Spacek) is contemplating an affair, she stumbles upon
the arrest of the prisoner (Carillo).
It all has an elegant,
almost cyclical structure -- the women's lives are all very different and
yet their problems are in many ways the same. All of them are mourning
some lost opportunity and wasted potential in their lives, the compromises
that they have made to come to a place in their lives which they inevitably
never wanted or expected to to occupy.
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Posted: September 30, 2005.