Developed in 2006-2007 to be one of the most clever films of the decade for sure, The Nines is John August’s tour-de-force of originality. The DVD cover, and even original theatrical poster, of this film is very misleading. It features lead actor Ryan Reynolds in a green shirt and tied bracelet against a gray background. What is Ryan Reynolds doing? He just looks worried. Based on that, this film could literally be about anything. At first glance from my interpretation, it looks like an espionage thriller. It also looks like a bizarre comedy or even an oddball caper film. In some ways, it might be all three, but truthfully it fits into no genre.
At best, The Nines is an introspective, existential film about the beauty of existence while at the same asking why life can be so ugly. It is divided into three stories about the same man played Ryan Reynolds. Each man is suffering a strange series of problems where life does not seem to be going his way, and yet, it all seems to be for his own benefit. The central theme of the story is about self-discovery and what it means to be different. There is also a story-within-a-story concept working here in order for the audience to fully understand what it means to be looking at a person’s life in alternative ways. For example, one life of our main character shows him playing a TV director trying to tell a story. The audience does not really get to see what he is making except for one scene. Suddenly, in another life story (the 3rd act here), the scene plays out as reality for a couple of characters (Melissa McCarthy and Elle Fanning) in a car. What is written fantasy for one person maybe reality for another.
The ultra witty script by John August asks so many questions in all the carnations of the main character: who am I really?, what am I creating?, who are these other people?, how many times have we done this?, am I pretending to be somebody?, and what happens if I did this? These are almost childlike questions or Twilight Zone scenarios. In fact, the Rod Serling show probably had a lot to do with the inspiration for this production. It is a wickedly fresh story that has to be seen. Everything can be understood in the first viewing, but the whole thing does not become its true spiritual awakening until viewed again a second time or played back in your memory. It is a wondrous experience.