What are The Nines? I have no idea, but I think The Eights are koala bears. That's about as close as you'll get to answers in this film, screenwriter John August's directorial debut, but don't let that deter you -- this is one of the most fun, most brain-twistingly clever films of the year. It's at once a serious meditation on the responsibilities of creators, a light-hearted poke at people in the entertainment industry who apply life-or-death stakes to everything that happens to them, and a metaphysical meditation on exactly what constitutes reality. Is television reality? The characters certainly seem to think so. Who are we to tell them they aren't real? And what about our creator? Do we have one? If so, what would that creator think about what we're up to, and how would they go about inserting themselves into the everyday world to get a closer look? What guise would they use? The Nines is a movie that raises about six million major, thought-provoking questions but then holds back on answering most of them.
The film is structured as a three-part anthology, with three actors -- Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy, and Hope Davis -- playing different characters in each part. Part 1 has Reynolds playing a capricious Hollywood actor who totals his car and ends up being put under house arrest in his gigantic Hollywood home -- some punishment, right? Going stir-crazy under the watchful eye of his ultra-chipper publicist, played by McCarthy, Reynolds' character becomes enamored with a sultry next-door neighbor, played by Davis, and starts to challenge his house arrest. Part 2 is a more autobiographical section, with Reynolds playing a television executive fighting to keep his pet project in development while also submitting to the demands of a Project Greenlight-style reality show, starring him. Davis plays a cold-hearted network executive in this piece, while McCarthy plays a thinly-disguised version of herself, acting out a version of her own past experiences with August. Part 3 is a self-contained story, starring Reynolds and McCarthy as a couple with a child, lost in the woods -- Davis plays a mysterious jogger. Still with me?