The Nines (2007): Why You Should Check Out the Melissa McCarthy Film You Haven’t Seen
This Friday (June 28), Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock are going to take the box office by storm with The Heat, an honest-to-goodness female buddy cop movie. It’s a given that the movie is going to be a fun ride and give us all another reason to continue to talk about the delightful star power of Melissa McCarthy. Hollywood can’t seem to get enough of McCarthy right now, which is fine by me because neither can I. I’ve been a certified McCarthy fangirl since she played the lovable chef Sookie St. James on Amy Sherman-Palladino’s late, great Gilmore Girls, but if I have one quibble about her current career trajectory, it’s that since Bridesmaids put her on everyone’s radar she has played a string of similarly bawdy characters. They’ve all been funny, but the thing is, McCarthy is anything but one note, as her little seen 2007 film The Nines can attest.
The Nines isn’t an easy movie to describe; it’s part Hollywood meta and part metaphysical sci-fi weirdness. Luckily, it’s also 100% entertaining. The film was written by John August (Big Fish, Go) expressly for McCarthy. Told in three sections– “The Prisoner,” “Reality Television” and “Knowing”– The Nines stars McCarthy, Ryan Reynolds (who is also much better here than he has been in the dull roles he’s been playing lately) and Hope Davis each in three different, slightly overlapping parts.
In the first Reynolds finds himself under house arrest with McCarthy playing his overly cheerful publicist. In the second, he’s a television writer and she’s his best friend who the studio doesn’t want him to cast in his new series because of her unconventional looks. Finally, in the third, McCarthy and Reynolds are married with a young daughter, and when their car breaks down in the woods their entire world is upended. Throughout, the film introduces big ideas about creativity, world-building and Hollywood under the guise of a pretty nifty twisty sci-fi plot, but that’s just one reason why you should watch it. The other is to see what McCarthy can do when she is handed a leading lady role.
Depending on which incarnation of her character she’s asked to play, McCarthy is by turns funny, charming, heartbreaking and honest, particularly in the scene when Reynolds’ writer character tells her he can’t give her the lead in his series. Bridesmaids, Identity Theft and now The Heat have all allowed McCarthy to be as over-the-top hilarious as any of her male counterparts, but she’s a gifted actress who can hit so many more notes when given the chance. Here in The Nines, we get to see her walk a delicate line between sincerity and something more mysterious. She’s idealized, but also raw– a constant exercise in contradictions that works because she’s just that good.
Furthermore, the film does the one thing I’m dying to see Hollywood do: it lets McCarthy play a romantic lead, and perhaps, if we take the ending literally, the ultimate romantic lead. We’re in a serious romantic comedy drought right now. With things looking so dire, it would be nice to see Hollywood try something different instead of continuing to try to make their current formula of creepy dude (think Gerard Butler) forcefully seducing an uptight leading lady (think poor, perpetually miscast Katherine Heigl) with his awfulness work, let’s try something else Hollywood. Preferably with McCarthy in a screwball comedy throwback, if she’s up for it.
More than anything, I just want to see McCarthy’s career momentum continue. The Heat is definitely a step in the right direction, as it allows her to carry the film alongside Bullock. The lady is a class act as her recent restrained take-down of the critic who honestly doesn’t deserved to be named, let alone be linked to, illustrated. So before you head out to the theaters to see The Heat this weekend (which you most definitely should do), take a moment to check out a cool little indie flick that shows off McCarthy’s boundless talent and then start daydreaming about all of the awesome McCarthy films still to come (I’m looking at you Tammy).
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