THE NINES —–since no-one went to see this sci-fi psychological teaser when it ever-so-briefly blipped the fabric of reality in 2007 (it made $130,880, and that’s globally) it will have to earn its “check this one out” stripes through ordinary down-to-earth word-of-mouth. It’ll take time, and a decade has elapsed already, but it should eventually find—and deserves—a select audience who will grok its strangeness. Said appreciators likely are familiar with certain organic or man-made varieties of what the informed deem a “head-trip”.
Broken into three chapters, their different stories cross-pollinate using the same group of actors in each, playing different characters—or are they?
Chapter One: The Prisoner has a drug-blasted actor (Ryan Reynolds) under tony but still-restricted house arrest in the digs of an absent TV writer. His patient P.R. handler (Melissa McCarthy) and a flirtatious neghbor (Hope Davis) express interest in his psyched-out situation, which flips beyond hallucinatory as he sees what appear to be clues to some other dimension.
Chapter Two: Reality Television finds a TV writer (Reynolds) getting ensnared in survival-of-the-most-ruthless stakes when his network producer (Davis) moves to sideline his favored actress and good friend (McCarthy), set for the lead in the writer’s series pilot. Otherworldly images intrude on what looks to be his collapsing project, position and sanity.
Chapter Three: Knowing sees a video game designer (Reynolds) up a canyon when his car breaks down in an isolated area. His wife (McCarthy) and daughter (Elle Fanning) stay put while he treks for help, then meets a challenging woman walking alone (Davis) who takes him on a path that leads to a different rescue than he intended.
Other than the young Fanning, who only appears in the last chapter, also showing up in different guises for each segment are Octavia Spencer, Ben Falcone, David Denman and Dahlia Salem. Written & directed by John August (Big Fish, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Charlie’s Angels), it’s confusing but intriguing, witty and unsettling, sharp and obtuse. The cast excel. Davis had long proved her mettle nailing the nervous tension of a quick-thinker wounded by the denseness around her: she’s sexier here than usual, backed by some steely reserve. Reynolds runs the table with his three completely opposite but equally (mutually) upended guys; it’s some of his best work. The real find was McCarthy, in an early demonstration of how charming and open she can be.
If the provided “answer” to the ‘Twilight Zonish’ time & space consciousness-collision conundrums facing the puzzled protagonists doesn’t fully deliver, the attempt at something different than a standard linear narrative journey is laudable, the curiosity level holds and the actors really shine. 90 minutes.