Ryan Reynolds may not be a demigod (much less a full-fledged deity), but he plays one to sterling effect in The Nines. Or at least, he may play one, as tantalizing questions are more plentiful than answers in Go and Big Fish screenwriter John August’s directorial debut. As visualized by a credit sequence in which one thread is cut into three and then knotted and intertwined into a bracelet, August’s first behind-the-camera endeavor offers a trio of entangled tales, each featuring Reynolds, Hope Davis, and Gilmore Girls’ Melissa McCarthy in different roles. In part one, “The Prisoner,” a TV star (Reynolds) burns his house down and then suffers a crack-fueled fender bender, mishaps which land him under house arrest at a writer’s abode, where he’s babysat by a perky publicist (McCarthy) and pursued by the randy married mother next door (Davis). August mocks acting and celebrity, yet as references to the number nine and spooky noises and hallucinations soon elucidate, there’s something more mysterious than mere Hollywood satire at work. True to form, part two (“Reality Television”), about an August-like television show creator (Reynolds) on a reality TV program, and part three (“Following”), apparently a segment from the show that part two’s writer was working on, reveal the film’s larger metaphysical concerns, which—whether on a personal, cultural, or divine scale—center around the relationship shared between an artist/creator and his work/creation. It’s heady stuff that August addresses without the visual artistry of Darren Aronofsky’s somewhat thematically and structurally similar The Fountain, but with enough cleverness and humor (such as a random aside about the supernatural powers of koalas) to help balance out a few moments too New Age-y oblique for their own good. Though the barrier separating reality and fiction is flimsy, Reynolds’s triplicate performance is strapping, nimbly segueing between frustration, cockiness, and existential confusion while nicely keeping his trademark sarcasm in check. Even when August’s ability to wrap up his interrelated narratives and Big Issues proves slightly lacking, Reynolds is never less than commanding, his exhibition of genuine acting ability provoking a shift in perception at least as great as that brought about by The Nines’ mind-bending finale.
- Newmarket Films
- 98 min
- John August
- John August
- Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, Melissa McCarthy, Dahlia Salem, David Denman, Octavia Spencer, Ben Falcone
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