It’s a small world. While a theme expressed time and again, the idea that there is a strange force that unites us continues to inspire artists given the strange coincidences that surround us everyday. Rodrigo Garcia’s “Nine Lives” tells nine different stories regarding life in LA with characters from one story popping up in the most unexpected places later on. While not as focused as “Magnolia”, “Nine Lives” has a quiet, conversational tone that helps elevate it to the ranks of other ensemble pieces such as “Crash” and “Code Unknown”.
The stories all focus upon women from a variety of different backgrounds and range in intensity from something as simple as a young girl’s (Amanda Seyfried) interaction with her disabled father (the always great Ian McShane) and mother (Sissy Spacek) to more dire situations such as Holly (Lisa Gay Hamilton) coming home to confront demons from her past. The beauty to the film is that the stories seem to start mid-sentence and end at random, sometimes in the middle of a major revelation or action. This abruptness, along with every tale being told in one magnificent long shot, helps to add a real slice of life flavor to the stories. The large cast consisting of Spacek, Hamilton, McShane, Seyfriend, Aidan Quinn, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Isaacs, Amy Brenneman, Miguel Sandoval, Kathy Baker, Joe Mantegna, Glenn Close, Dakota Fanning, William Fichtner and Holly Hunter rise to the occasion which considering the amount of moving parts involved in a picture such as this is impressive. Little moments such as Ruth’s (Spacek) contemplating an affair with the sleazy Henry (Aidan Quinn) or Glen Close and Dakota Fanning’s simple conversation in a graveyard make the entire picture worthwhile.
While seemingly unrelated, the stories all have one thing in common: The protagonists are trapped. Be it by their own devices (A prisoner player by K Callen has no one to blame but herself) or external forces (Kathy Baker’s Camille wrestling with cancer) we see these characters at pivotal points in their lives. Maybe their plights are not directly solved in front of us but they don’t need to be, the fact they are happening at all will change how these characters live forever, regardless of outcome.
The abrupt nature of the tales works for the most part but given that there is no overall story arc there are certain segments that start to drag on while others feel as though they should have been allowed to play out just a little longer. Diana*s (Penn) reunion with a former lover (Isaacs) is initially a great little moment but ends up playing out far too long, stretching credibility the longer it lasts. Sonia’s (Holly Hunter) tale seems to end just as the story is getting good leaving the audience hanging.
“Nine Stories” is a rare treat, it is not a film for everyone given its episodic nature but should prove worthwhile for the moviegoer in the mood for something a little different.