Combustible Celluloid
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With: Robin Wright Penn, Holly Hunter, Sissy Spacek, Glenn Close, Dakota Fanning, Aidan Quinn, Joe Mantegna, Amanda Seyfried, Molly Parker, Amy Brenneman, Mary Kay Place, Miguel Sandoval, William Fichtner, Kathy Baker, Elpidia Carrillo, Mary Pat Dowhy, Jason Isaacs, Sidney Tamiia Poitier, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Stephen Dillane, Ian McShane, Lawrence Pressman
Written by: Rodrigo Garcia
Directed by: Rodrigo Garcia
MPAA Rating: R for language, brief sexual content and some disturbing images
Running Time: 112
Date: 01/24/2005

Nine Lives (2005)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Dreams and Bones

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Here's one that nearly got away. When it opened late in 2005, it came across like a horrible, drippy chick flick, and so I opted to skip it. I very recently caught up with it, and it's actually a truly amazing film. Filmed in nine continuous shots, it's like a mini-Short Cuts, examining the tiny, painful moments in nine women's lives with searing clarity. In the first segment, a female prisoner (Elpidia Carrillo) is threatened by another prisoner and tries to speak with her daughter. In the second, a pregnant woman (Robin Wright Penn) runs into an old lover (Jason Isaacs) in the supermarket. Other segments take place during a hotel tryst, a funeral, or inside private homes. As with Short Cuts, minor characters in one piece can become a major character in another piece. It even has one of my pet peeves: the disease-of-the-week factor (one character is deaf and another has breast cancer), but gets away with it due to deft writing and expert timing. The performances, from veterans like Holly Hunter, Sissy Spacek and Glenn Close to people I was not familiar with, are universally, heartbreakingly superb. Without cutting to ruin the flow, Garcia allows refreshing moments to pause and breathe within each segment. Of course, in those same moments, your heart has time to catch in your throat. Don't miss this one.

DVD Details: Sony Pictures Classics' new DVD comes with an on-stage discussion, four making-of featurettes, and a large trailer gallery.

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