Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) has experienced his share of success as a film director in the past. However, a movie crew is set to start shooting his new production in ten days and Guido still doesn’t have a script. While he won’t admit that to anyone, the weight of it is hanging heavy on his shoulders.
Along with the immense pressure of penning another hit, Guido’s lifestyle may be contributing to his lack of creative genius. It is hard to concentrate on work when he is busy juggling his time between his wife (Marion Cotillard), his mistress (Penélope Cruz), and the stunning actress (Nicole Kidman) he wants to woo into working with him again. Then there is the reporter (Kate Hudson) from a high-end fashion magazine who seductively drops her room key into Guido’s coat pocket. So many distractions!
Yet it is almost impossible to feel sorry for the self-possessed director who continually whines about his predicament to his long-suffering costume designer (Judi Dench). He appears to blame his obsession with sex, his self-indulgent behaviors and his depraved sense of morality on an unhappy childhood experience with a religious leader who punished him for misbehavior. (Guido and his preadolescent school friends paid a prostitute, played by Fergie, to perform a striptease act for them.) Though Guido’s beating with a stick appears to have turned him against God, it didn’t change his affection for his mother (Sophia Loren) who stood by while her son was reprimanded.
On the sidelines of his life stand the women who inexplicably love Guido, despite his calloused treatment of them. He unashamedly lies to his wife, trivializes their marriage and leaves her alone in bed while he goes to the side of his mistress. He plunks his mistress in a seedy hotel near the dock, refuses to let her come to the set and toys with her affections. Meanwhile, he tries to convince his favorite actress to dig him out of the mess he has created by helping him come up with some semblance of a screenplay.
While Guido’s sense of privilege is difficult enough to swallow, the adaptation of this stage production to the big screen suffers from some challenges as well. Many of the scenes still have the confining feel of the theater and the storyline relies too heavily on the musical numbers rather than on a strong script to move it along. The period piece contains numerous scenes of women wearing scanty bustier and other revealing clothing while performing erotic dance moves. Excessive cigarette use is also portrayed.
Fortunately a moment of comeuppance arrives that forces the wallowing Guido to face his pandering for hedonism and self-pity. But his lesson proves to be painful for everyone around him as well. Although this film offers little in the way of family entertainment, it does provide an interesting insight into the pitfalls of entitlement and the disregard for responsibility that can come with fame and fortune.