'Nine Lives'

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Nine Lives
Written and directed by Rodrigo García
Magnolia, opens October 14

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There's something confining about the title of Rodrigo García's Nine Lives, a series of vignettes on mundanely horrific episodes in the lives of nine SoCal women. During part one, as we watch Elpidia Carrillo's character righteously haul off on prison guards, it dawns that we're in for eight more slices of life about sliced lives. In yet another roundelay that, like Crash and Heights, follows the Short Cuts template of cosmic interconnection, we're reminded that one woman's oncology nurse is another man's estranged, gun-wielding daughter; that one woman's emotionally sadistic ex-boyfriend is the object of another couple's acute class envy. The short-story glimpses aim for Carver-esque pang, though the script could have used some Lorrie Moore bite. Some actors fare better than others in the crucible of continuous-shot segments. Riffs that work include pregnant Robin Wright Penn's grocery store encounter with that troublesome old flame, Holly Hunter's attempts to mitigate her husband's jealousy of her friends' success, and Kathy Baker's testy, terrified pre-mastectomy conversation with husband Joe Mantegna. The pitch is off, however, in Sissy Spacek's bit as caretaker of a deteriorating husband (it doesn't help that the distracted camera keeps plunging into daughter Amanda Seyfried's shirt) and Amy Brenneman's pop-in to the funeral of her former husband's wife, during which her ex, a deaf man, pitches for sympathy sex by furtively signing about nostalgic masturbation. Littered throughout are various underscorings of the fact that we're all connected—mates in that special sadness best embodied by recurring, overripe piano plunks.

 
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