Review: ‘All About Nina’, Mary Elizabeth Winstead Shines

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who has done excellent work in her career thus far, does q fantastic job in her portrayal of Nina Geld, a comedian trying to make it in a male-dominated sphere. But her past demons and traumatic experiences demand to make a comeback just as she’s about to hit a career high. Written and directed by Eva Vives, All About Nina is a solid and strong debut for the first-time feature film director.

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All About Nina smoothly manages to balance the ups and downs of Nina’s life without one outweighing the other. Nina is a multi-dimensional character not defined by her past, but certainly shaped, affected and recovering from it. She defines herself as a stereotype but she is anything but and it goes to show what a layered female character can look like when written and directed by another woman. There’s a gentleness and sincerity in the handling of the story and sensitive topics.

The comedy is vulgar and straight to the point and Nina dives in head first, with her strong comedic talent and stage personality masking a lot of her internal struggles. Winstead is able to carry the film and digs deep into the feelings of Nina, often bouncing back and forth between various emotions in the span of a minute. Winstead’s performance is nuanced, ebbing and flowing alongside the narrative, never doing too much or too little. Her performance is truly pitch perfect.

It’s often hard to find that balance between comedy and darker themes, but Vives manages to do exactly that. There’s certainly a lot that the film tackles, from the reception of female comedians to how Nina’s past potentially puts a wrench in her career and also how she’s perceived by the public. Nina has a formerly abusive relationship with Joe (Chace Crawford), a married cop who won’t stop showing up where he doesn’t belong, but the film thankfully doesn’t spend the entirety of its run time torturing Nina and the audience with their relationship.

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Instead, we get to watch Nina develop a much healthier relationship with Rafe (Common), a man who’s honest with her up front and doesn’t hurt her in the way she’s used to. Through this relationship, we watch Nina become more comfortable, but it’s not rushed and unfolds organically. Her relationship with Rafe and the slow and steady rise of her career help build toward the most heart-wrenching and vulnerable moment for Nina and Winstead truly nails it. Meanwhile, Common’s Rafe is patient and isn’t quick to walk away. The rapper-turned-actor is a solid and calming presence throughout the film.

All About Nina is one of those films that sneaks up on you because you’re not expecting it to be as good as it is. But it’s easily one of the standout indie films of the year. Eva Vives’ directorial feature film debut is exceptionally good and her writing isn’t overly dramatic for the sake of it. Rather, it moves like gentle waves lapping at the shore and the steady pacing matches the major narrative beats. All About Nina is definitely worth checking out and I look forward to seeing where Vives goes from here.

Rating: 4 out of 5


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