The film stars Ryan Reynolds in three different roles that seem to be in three different stories, but they are in fact connected in a single narrative. The film's events though are disjointed and surreal, leaving the viewer wondering what is real and what might be the product of a deranged mind. What remains consistent in each story is that the Reynolds' character starts to see his world unravel in some way. There are also two characters who continuously pop up (played by Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy) and engage in a tug-a-war in which they try to keep him away from the other. Their actions are what result in each world starting to come apart.
The mystery behind what is happening slowly reveals itself, and the answer tackles some rather big issues about the nature of existence, of how we determine the reality in which we find ourselves. It also ponders the relationship a creator has with his creations. Does the creator owe any allegiance to that which he has created? Is he free to destroy that which he creates simply because he was the one who created it in the first place?
Writer/director John August tackles these questions in a story that functions as a show business allegory on one level but evolves into something much deeper and profound as the "rules" of movie storytelling are slowly and systematically ignored to reveal hidden truths beneath the surface. Like David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, The Nines brings attention to itself as a movie by breaking the rules it establishes at the start and isn't afraid to confuse the audience with inexplicable dialogue and random jumps in time and space. Unlike Mulholland Drive, however, The Nines isn't cynical and has, in fact, a great deal of heart at its core.
And that is where the film loses some of its power by being a touch too sentimental about its subject matter. It doesn't quite make the leap into brilliant satire because it feels the need to give its characters some closure. But, you know, that's okay. By the time all is said and done, the audience has connected enough to the characters, even as they continuously change, to want them to find some sort of happy ending.