Eva Vives’s directorial debut All About Nina has a lot to say and is an important movie in today’s climate. Vives started writing the script around 3 years ago, and the film is a semi-biographical account of her life. The drama-comedy stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and 10 Cloverfield Lane) and Common (The Lion Guard, and The Chi) and premiered April 22, 2018 at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Vives’ story is told in such a savagely-blunt, truthful yet scintillating way. There are genuine laughs scattered throughout the film, but the drama is a heavy hitter. Nina Geld (Winstead) is a struggling comedian, with commitment and honesty issues, who moves from New York to Los Angeles for her big break and gets a fresh start. In New York, Geld’s onstage persona is quite frank and straightforward, she’s fierce and gives off the vibe of being a strong independent woman. Her set has jokes about sex, periods, diarrhea and feminism. However, when she gets off stage she’s always drinking, and sleeping with a married man named Officer Joe (Chace Crawford). Nina narrates a hilarious story on how the two met (which is based on Vives’ true story!), and their relationship is something she benefits from, and he’s just a pawn that she can ghost and leave whenever she wants. There’s too much stress for her in the Concrete Jungle of NY so she packs up and moves to LA for the benefit of her mental health and career.
The warmth and sunshine of LA is refreshing and it feels like Nina has arrived in a whole new world. Her introduction to her new hippie lesbian roommate Lake (Kate Del Castillo) is a culture shock for her because Lake is stereotypical Californian and that clashes with Nina’s brash New York nature. Del Castillo’s charm and charisma make Lake one of the funnier characters in the film. Lake does yoga and invites Nina to a Circle of Truth, and Nina is someone who is uncomfortable with admitting her truths, which causes a scene that gives her character more depth. After meeting Raef (Common) she tries to be honest with him, but after going out for a quick drink, he doesn’t seem to be honest with her. Nina tells Raef she has never seen a guy twice, which was a lie, and Raef tells her a small-lie about his relationship. Winstead and Common’s on-screen chemistry is lacking. Winstead makes the most of their scenes together, but Common comes across stiff throughout the film. There’s a couple of scenes where he gets emotional and delivers his lines with some personality, but they are few and far between.
Nina’s infatuation with Raef is a feeling that is brand new to her, and it’s overwhelming to the point that she has a panic attack. This scene explores how much she loves him and doesn’t want to mess it up. Everything in her personal life is starting to go her way, even career-wise, she is selected to have a chance to audition for a spot on Comedy Prime, the flagship comedy show in L.A.. Raef and Nina go out to celebrate the good news and she has a small breakdown and tries to pick a fight in the club with some girl that bumped into her. Not being used to the stress of all these good things happening to her is the source of the breakdown. She gets in an argument with Raef, returns home, and after confiding in Lake about her fears of messing all these blessings up, Lake tells her to woman the fuck up. An interesting choice of words because it shows where the cool-calm hippie became blunt with the outspoken feminist, a switch of personas so to speak.
The biggest conflict of the film comes when Nina is in her first show for Comedy Prime and Raef comes to watch her, even though. They had a huge argument previously. Nina was surprised that he was there for her after the fallout. Raef says he came because he loved her. The biggest twist is that Officer Joe has flown in from New York, left his wife and kids, just to see Nina. Raef is blindsided by this because Nina never told him about Joe. The clip in the trailer shows a fight between the two over Nina and Raef delivers a great piece of dialogue about the police. At this point the film becomes an emotional roller coaster because next is the most powerful and gut-wrenching scene in the film. A distraught Nina abandons her usual stand-up routine to have a truthful talk with the audience and Raef, who’s sitting in the crowd. Nina explains why she treats men the way she has and why she’s so straightforward and not your typical woman. One man in her life caused mental and emotional damage to her that has left her scarred and scared to be honest and open which has damaged her relationship with all the other men in her life. Winstead’s performance while delivering this scene is well-acted, and Vives’s framing of the scene is perfect. Nina is wearing all black, the background curtains are black, the spotlight is shining on her as she tells her story, which makes all the focus on her. The dark colors in the scene symbolize the darkness that Nina is getting off her chest. The realism of the story is what makes it even more compelling and how Nina could be anyone you know in your own life.
Overall, All About Nina, was a fantastic start for Eva Vives’s film career in the director’s chair. Since the story was semi-biographical, it gave the film its emotional appeal, and in today’s #MeToo climate, it helps us understand that you never know what someone is going through, no matter how strong they seem when they’re on stage. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has another excellent performance as Nina Gelds. If you’re looking for something unique, funny yet sad, then get your act together and check it out at your local theater.
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[All Mames Wey]
All About Nina is in theaters now.