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RUNNING TIME: 75 Minutes
• Audio Commentary by cast and crew
• Deleted Scenes
“Nine interlocking tales surrounding gay culture in L.A.? That’ll kill in Toledo!”
Steve Callahan, William Christian, Dennis Christopher, John Ganiun, Dean Howell, Michael Kearns, Nick Salamone, Eric Turic, Debra Wilson
Nine strangers intersect in L.A. Their connection? Gay life and culture. Kinda like the Sean Hayes version of The Real World.
Nine Lives is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Not seen “recently.” Not seen “this year.” Ever. It’s that bad. Almost everything about this movie is atrocious. I’ll try to waste less of your time reading this review than I had my time wasted watching all 75 minutes of this turd.
First off, you should know that the flick’s based off a play, “Complications,” by Michael Kearns. Actually, I probably didn’t need to tell you that since it’s made abundantly obvious in the flick. How so? It’s a series of painfully trite monologues delivered right into the camera. For 75 minutes. My problems with this format are as followed:
1. While I can’t vouch for the quality of the play, I can tell you that the monologues are terrible. They just play off gay stereotypes and clichés without adding anything new or provocative.
2. The film is shot using extreme close-ups. Like, “we can see the oils inside your pores and I don’t even have HDTV” close-ups. I’d say 90% of the film is shot like this. I’m guessing director Dean Howell wanted to create an intimacy between actor and viewing audience, but it just made me uncomfortable—I got genuinely claustrophobic, and at times it just felt like the actors were shouting unpleasant things at me. And I don’t like to be yelled at.
3. With one exception, every actor in the piece is terrible. Overly theatrical, mannered, and as natural as Victoria Beckham’s tits, nose, mouth, ass, and stomach.
It probably would have been more advantageous to ditch the monologue aspect of the film and focus more on the real-time connections between these nine people, but no one connected with the film thought that would be a good idea. Pity. I’m guessing the monologues helped hide the fact that minus the couple at the end, none of the characters share a natural connection to one another—one guy will meet another guy at the end of his story, they’ll have sex, and then the new guy becomes the new focal point. It’s a whole lot less surprising and more mechanical a contrivance than I’d like. If one were, say, shooting on film (or high-end digital), one could use the aesthetic powers of the film medium to partially obscure this contrived format but for this bad boy, we get low-grade digital, the aforementioned close-ups, and shaky cam work that would make Paul Greengrass and Jason Bourne physically ill. The film looks as amateurish as I’ve ever seen, with no agency behind the no-frills shooting. I’m mystified this exists in any format.
Still, I’m amazed by the general level of incompetence that pervades the flick. Play-based film, you shoot for good actors. Not this one. The actors here are just horrible. I’ve mentioned that before, but I really need to emphasize that again: the actors here are horrible. They’re hampered by a terrible script, yes, but even a polish job by Tom Stoppard and Tony Gilroy couldn’t improve matters. I know many actors won’t do gay love scenes, and the ones here are pretty explicit (but lacking in all feeling and actual heat. It’s just porno sex, distanced and impersonal, gussied up as art), but surely you could do better than the cast here! And I’m still at a loss as to why MadTV’s Debra Wilson appears in a movie about gay males; she may be around to represent the unknowing straight beard to a gay man, but she can’t act, and her material is trite and obvious. Talking about the joys of rearing a family while your husband secretly rears other men? Never seen that before *coughAngelsinAmericawithaninfinitelybetterscriptandcastcough*. Only Dennis Christopher brings any real empathy and ability to his part as Mikey, the drug dealer with AIDS. He’s the best part of the flick, managing to elevate the material far past Howell and Kearns’ script, yet even he’s hampered by a retarded brother subplot that makes Justin Bartha’s stuff in Gigli look nuanced and sensitive.
I think the thing that bugs me the most is the negative portrayal of gay people in a flick made by gay people. The eight leads are, by turns, shallow, bitter, vain, murderous, and willfully obtuse, and all are sexually irresponsible to a shocking degree. I get what the filmmakers are after; society treats gays horribly, and so they act as they are treated. Doesn’t make for compelling or sympathetic viewing, though, and I began praying for one character to not have daddy issues or a history of molestation or drug problems or murderous rage. You know, a normal person who just happens to be gay. The way these men treat sex is particularly unforgivable—the kind of irresponsible behavior each man exhibits might fly in the 1970s and early 1980s, but in a world now scarred by AIDS, everyone, gay or straight, should know better and act accordingly.
This movie blows. Just stay away from it. It’s a failure on every level. I really can’t stress that enough.
The digital video looks like ass. Like someone wiped their ass on the digital interpositive. The audio sounds like it was mixed in a tunnel. At least the DVD cover has two guys full-on kissing, making the box the choice of all closeted, hypocritical Republican senators and congressmen who aren’t ready to man up to straight-up gay porn.
The Cast and Crew commentary alternates between glad-handing and earnest discussion of why the film “matters.” Neither is earned. After that, we got unfunny outtakes and a deleted scene.
You ask me, this whole film should’a been deleted. Fuck this flick.