Thursday, October 11, 2018

All About Nina

I really wanted to like All About Nina. I can certainly tell what drew Mary Elizabeth Winstead to the project in which she plays a stand-up comedian struggling with her career and relationships. While Winstead makes the most of the dramatic moments, particularly during an impressive breakdown on stage, the script from writer/director Eva Vives does the actress no favors.

Had Nina (Winstead) been written as an average struggling comic the script may have worked better, but, while Winstead does her best to sell Nina's material on stage, the jokes aren't strong enough to sell the character as comedy's next big thing.

Leaving New York, and a dysfunctional relationship with a married man (Chace Crawford), Nina heads to Los Angeles. Not the actual Los Angeles, but the cliched movie version with hippie roommates and fame and soulmates just waiting to be found. While auditioning for a job that would launch her career, Nina begins an emotional relationship with an LA local (Common) who apparently is the first nice guy Nina has ever met, let alone dated.

Winstead is the best thing about the film and the only character we see that doesn't feel one-dimensional. I remember being surprised by the actress more than a decade ago in Bobby, and although her career has had its ups and downs, I'm always happy to see her on-screen. Some of Nina's stand-up may fall flat, but Winstead's ability does shine through at times (such as in her impression of Björk ordering a smoothie). The rest of the cast, from the other comedians, to the men in Nina's life, to her odd roommate, are all one-note, paper-thin, caricatures used to further the plot, teach her a lesson, and push the protagonist forward.

The purpose of the film is also a bit odd. All About Nina isn't a coming of age story or a rags to riches story or even a great romance. Instead it's a slice of life for a troubled woman who deals with years of pain and anger as best she can on stage (and jumping any guy she can find without ever wanting to connect on an emotional level). Is Nina better at the end of the movie? That's debatable as there's certainly a long way for her to go. The more interesting question is, given the opportunity to tell any story from her life, is this the most interesting few days to choose? Sadly, given what we learn about her over the course of the film, and see the struggle that is to come, the answer is obviously no.

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