All About Nina (2018)
R | 1h 37min | Comedy , Drama | Now in select theaters
Synopsis: Nina Geld is an up-and-coming comedian in New York City. She’s funny, smart and has worked hard to build a career for herself in the male-dominated world of stand-up. But when it comes to romantic relationships, Nina’s life is a mess. After killing it in Los Angeles, she meets chill contractor Rafe Hines, who tempts the brash New Yorker into considering commitment.
Review: Powerful writing (Eva Vives) and the draining – in a good way – performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead make the new drama ALL ABOUT NINA a film full of blunt force emotion. If the movie had ended after the first ten minutes Winstead would easily be worthy of an award consideration. After watching the whole thing I believe she might just win one.
Nina Geld (Winstead) is a gritty stand up comic who has no problem spewing toxic life moments from the stage and then stuffing it all down with dysfunctional one-night-stands afterwards. You like her but are terrified of her and for her. Her sarcastic wit and humor is hilarious but the dark undertones of her personality threaten to destroy it all. She moves from NY to LA to try and land a spot on an SNL type comedy show called Comedy Prime. There she meets Rafe (Common) a man unlike any in her life. He will either tame her or she will once again sabotage anything close to healthy.
I have always been a fan of Winstead’s ability to suck you in to what ever role she is given. Vives gives her the opportunity here to lay her character bare before us all. No apologies, no hesitation, and no pretending. It has to be that way or the film doesn’t work. Every scene has to be Nina at top volume even in the quiet moments. If Winstead ever allows light to shine through the cracks the facade is broken and the moment lost.
Common was a good casting choice for Rafe. It needed someone with a zen like core. A powerful performer who doesn’t need to speak loud to be heard. Whether rapping, writing stirring lyrics, or telling people how to make a chair (find and watch Framework) Common always seems in control of the moment. Not with dominance but with confidence. To stand toe to toe with Nina many actors would have seemed lost.
None of this happens without pen to page. This is the first full length feature by Vives who wrote, directed, and produced All About Nina. It is obvious that no one can write a female character like a woman. Label that remark however you want but I stand by it. Men can get close and even capture true magic at times. But when you see a film like this it is apparent that we will never really know the intricacies and depths of the female soul. Eva does though and we get a taste of it here.
The supporting cast is top notch too. Often they only show up for a few minutes but there is no surprise they would want to be in this one. Camryn Manheim, Beau Bridges, Mindy Sterling, Kate del Castillo, and Jay Mohr are only a few of the fine additions. Winstead has to carry it though and does fantastically. Comedy is hard and stand up seems impossible. Winstead is convincing both on and off the comedy stage. I know I sound like the president of the Mary Elizabeth fan club but I don’t care.
ALL ABOUT NINA is rated R for strong sexual content and language throughout, some nudity and brief drug use. The opening dialogue sets the tone for what is to come. It is not for the soft of ear or the blushing type. This is a raw film about a caustic character. It has to be this way to work. Just know going in. But go in. I have to give it 4 out of 5 cat sanctuaries for the writing and performances. It is not a perfect film and there are some collisions at the end that feel formulaic and Hollywood. But that in no way takes away from the rest of journey. Congrats to Vives on this one. See you at award season.