A movie that both simultaneously tries to take itself seriously and with little or no respect, “The Nines” is the invention of John August who wrote, directed and produced the piece. Here, Ryan Reynolds, perhaps the man better known as Van Wilder plays as a television star, writer/reality star and video game producer in three parts which August shapes into an existential panic as the separation between reality and fiction, humanity and omniscience, what is “enough” in an industry categorized by hype and misdirection.
Resembling both the works of Linklater and Kaufman, this debut neither contains the wild trailing ideas of the first nor the neatly played out subtexts of the latter, straddling somewhere in the middle where the theories are concise but the intention is playfully left to the viewer to decipher their true meaning. Given the large volume of classical thought that’s covered, it is a large coup that August has both the confidence and foresight to leave it within the personal philosophical realm.
In “The Prisoner”, Reynolds plays Gary, a TV actor abandoned by his girlfriend, decides to set fire to her belongings in his back garden and go on an alcohol and drug fueled bender culminating in a flipped Prius on Sunset Boulevard. Put under house arrest in the empty home of a producer and under the supervision of PR damage control specialist Margaret (Melissa McCarthy), he begins a flirtation with Sarah (Hope Davis), his sexually aggressive next-door neighbour. Throughout, he begins to increasingly encounter the number nine, something Margaret knows more about than she’ll let on.
In Part Two, “Reality Television”, Reynold’s character Gavin, the house owner, is the writer of a new mystery show staring his best friend Melissa (McCarthy portraying herself). The entire development from script to pitch is portrayed as a behind the scenes style reality show as Gavin and his network liaison Susan (Davis) try to get it on the air. Unfortunately Susan doesn’t envisage the show with Melissa in it and Gavin is forced to choose between his best friend and his fledging show.
The final vignette “Knowing”, has Reynolds as Gabriel, an adored video game creator who gets lost hiking out in the Hollywood Hills with his wife Mary (McCarthy) and mute daughter (Elle Fanning). With the car battery and mobile phones dead, Gabriel leaves in search of help, only to come across Sierra (Davis), an antagonist hiker with sinister intentions.
Despite the obvious connections of the three self-contained stories, August manages to build upon the strong foundation he sets for himself and play these glances and inferences into something that truly matters. The repeated use of the same actors only serves to heighten this by detaching each each situation from reality, never fully enabling you to establish which, if any is the true situation. All we know is, it’s the ladies in this piece that hold all the cards.