“Dakota, you wanna play hide and seek?
I meant the game, not the movie.”

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

I don’t really know what I’m supposed to write. I watched the movie and I have an idea on what I thought about it. I just don’t know how to put them into words. I have to sit up straight, place my hands on the keyboard, and hopefully, type something up. I’ll probably figure it out eventually. You just have to wait it out, read some more banal words, paddle through my unbroken stream of consciousness. And maybe, just maybe, a little scroll down later, you’ll find out what I have to say about the movie.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s not interesting what I have to say anymore. And to be honest, I feel really lazy. But since you’ve read it this far, I ought to reward you. “Nine Lives” might be the movie for you. I’m not entirely sure, but why not. I’m just assuming a patient reader is a patient movie viewer too. “Nine Lives” isn’t a long movie; it’s nearly two hours in length. In fact, it seems to favor those with short attention span. The movie is a compilation of nine short films. However, each short film starts the same way – with no sense of introduction. You wait and wait as to what’s the story’s about. The films are designed to be stubbornly ambivalent even when something substantial is apparently happening.

I think the problem with “Nine Lives” is its gimmick. Each short film is an unbroken shot of 10-12 minutes. For that amount of time, the camera man and the actors must not flub. Good for them. But for the viewer, he or she must tolerate every petty second a continuous take preserves. We endure scenes of mopping, pushing shopping carts, ambling, sitting, and yes, even waiting. Is there a good story lurking behind these mundane moments? Probably. Could one write a good story without these mundane moments? Most definitely. I think writer and director Rodrigo Garcia could have pulled off the concept if the stories differed more from each other. Yes, the female protagonists vary from age and race, but story-wise, they are all strictly created from the same repressed dramatic template. The outcome is an atmosphere of monotony and worse, it’s repeated nine times.

What’s redeeming about “Nine Lives” is that it’s never short of great acting. There are too many actors to praise. Actually, the movie felt like watching actors on a play. It has that kind of immediacy and intimacy that you rarely get in a movie. Some stories are better than others, but they all have their unique power. But as good as the individual segments are, as a whole, they fail to connect and have cumulative impact. For great short film collections, I recommend “Personal Velocity,” “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing,” and the monumental series “Decalogue.” These films with long-lasting impact make “Nine Lives” a short-lived memory.

Grade: B

Elpidia Carrillo, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Issacs, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Holly Hunter, Stephen Dillane, Molly Parker, Amanda Seyfried, Sissy Spacek, Amy Brenneman, William Ficthtner, Mary Kay Place, Aidan Quinn, Kathy Baker, Joe Mantegna, Glenn Close, Dakota Fanning
Screenplay by
Rodrigo Garcia
Directed by
Rodrigo Garcia
Rated R for language, brief sexual content and some disturbing images