Nine Lives (review)

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It’s almost like theater, these nine short, interconnected one-act plays that unfold in real time in long, uncut single takes: writer-director Rodrigo Garcia, who’s mostly directed for TV, adopts the urgency and the immediacy of the stage by eschewing the tricks of film and setting his extraordinary cast free in front of the camera. Nine women whose lives touch one another’s somehow navigate the nine tales, and like anything assembled from smaller wholes, some of the individual pieces work better than others. The real standout may be the two-person drama of Robin Wright Penn’s (White Oleander) Diana, who meets an old lover, Damian (Jason Isaacs: Peter Pan), in the supermarket; they replay their whole relationship — from tentative, tender greetings to comfortable companionship to bitter recriminations — while they push their carts around and catch up with each other while they shop. Amy Brenneman’s (Off the Map) and William Fichtner’s (The Longest Yard) almost horrifically illicit tryst at a funeral is can’t-tear-your-eyes-away intriguing, too. If a few of the tales feel a bit too languid and character-sketchy to deeply please, it’s more than made up for by the beautiful performances and Garcia’s captivating approach.

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