A troubled woman (Lisa Gay Hamilton), who was abused by her father as a child, revisits the home where she grew up and, for a moment, recaptures her lost innocence; an ex-wife (Amy Brenneman) finds herself falling back in love with her ex-husband (William Fichtner) on the occasion of his second wife’s funeral; and a mother (Glenn Close) spends the afternoon visiting a family cemetery plot in the company of her precocious young daughter (Dakota Fanning) — or maybe not quite. Those are but three of the Nine Lives canvassed by writer-director Rodrigo García over the course of his new ensemble drama, and, as he did in his 2002 debut feature, Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her, García (the son of Gabriel García Márquez) has made a film that is less like a novel than a collection of short stories.
To read Tim Grierson's story on Nine Lives filmmaker Rodrigo García, click here.
Some episodes intersect, others stand alone, and each is filmed as a single unedited tracking shot. Though a few of García’s tales — which range from melodrama to farce and, yes, even magic realism — are more compelling than the rest, the nine female characters who form the stories’ centers are all remarkable, as are the gifted (and largely under-appreciated) actresses who play them. (In addition to those mentioned, Kathy Baker, Holly Hunter, Molly Parker and Mary Kay Place are also onboard.) Sissy Spacek is a jumble of comic nerves as a married woman about to embark on a motel-room fling with an anything-goes Lothario (Aidan Quinn, who’s never seemed this loose and unpredictable onscreen). But the film’s most plangent scene belongs to Robin Wright Penn and Jason Isaacs as two old flames who reminisce about a relationship that was “lovely in fits and starts” as they traverse the aisles of a grocery store that seems stocked with emotional baggage of their shared past. NINE LIVES | Written and directed by RODRIGO GARCÍA | Produced by JULIE LYNN | Released by Magnolia Pictures | At Laemmle Sunset 5, Landmark Westside Pavilion and Laemmle Playhouse 7