Nina Geld (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is an up and coming stand up comic with an acerbic and cutting on-stage wit. She also has terrible demons in her past that cause her to use sex as a weapon against her numerous one night stands. Then, she meets Rafe (Common), a man unlike any she has known before, in “All About Nina.”
I did not know what to expect from writer-director-producer Eva Vives in her first feature film foray. What I got is a riveting character study by Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the title character, Nina,
You learn, early on, that Nina suffers from low self esteem when she brings a guy she just met home after a gig and is confronted by her married ex-boyfriend, Joe (Chace Crawford). He slaps her and you think, “She’s going to throw him out.” Instead, they end up in bed, as they always do.
Following a not very civil confrontation with Joe’s wife, Nina tells her very pregnant agent, Carrie (Angelique Cabral), that she’s moving to LA and needs comedy club gigs. There, she moves in with Carrie’s free-spirited and loving friend, Lake (Kate del Castillo) and begins getting gigs and, her agent tells her, a chance to audition for the hit Comedy Prime TV show. She hones her foul-mouthed routine, mainly about being single and her copious experience with one-night stands.
One night, after a show, she meets Rafe, a genuinely nice and honest man – and a hunk, too. Right off the bat, Nina tells him, “I’m not going to f*** you,” assuming automatically that is what he wants. Then, she realizes, after a long and painful education, that Rafe is a truly good person. Nina’s story is, basically, about whether she blows a good thing or not.
Eva Vives, with her story that rings familiar, like I have been here before and cannot pinpoint why, benefits from the performances and chemistry of her two stars. Winstead gets down and dirty with both her stage persona and Nina in person.
Caustic does not come close to describing Nina’s personality, the reasons for which – at the film’s “Aha!” moment - are obvious and shocking at once and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the emotional center of “All About Nina.” Whereas Common, as the too-good-to-be-true Rafe, is the spiritual core. He is the genuinely safe harbor for the storm-tossed Nina. Heck, if I were not straight, I would date Rafe.
I am not a fan of the kind of stand up comedy that centers Nina’s routines (and her life). But, I can live with that in “All About Nina” because the film invests you, even though predictably, in the lives of its two characters. Also amusing and very likable in their small, almost cameo roles are Kate del Castillo as the alternative life-style Lake and Angelique Cabral as Carrie. I give it a B-.
Nina Geld (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a standup comedian whose schtick revolves around the fact that she doesn't date. She's a serial one night stander, except for the one guy who turns out to be married. But when she moves from NY to LA, she meets Rafe (Common) and they click so hard, he's determined to buck her trend in "All About Nina."
Writer/director Eva Vives' feature debut is buoyed by fine performances by its two stars, but your enjoyment of the film may be hampered, if, like me, you have an aversion to female comics leaning on bodily and sexual crudeness for their jokes. The film's romance, which finds Nina and Rafe liberated by taking sex off the table, is a lovely getting to know you marathon, the actors really connecting through deep conversation and random bits of silliness, but even this is marred by Vives' insistent use of a cliched shot of Winstead and Common lying head to head. The film's psychoanalysis of what drives Nina's behavior has been seen before as well, its revelation no surprise.
The film features Camryn Manheim in the underdeveloped role as Nina's mom, Chace Crawford as Nina's married lover and Jay Mohr as a fellow, lusting comic. Beau Bridges, Clea DuVall and Kate del Castillo also star. "Austin Powers'" Mindy Sterling is notable as Amy, a friend of Nina's mom's who's thrilled by her relationship to the performer on stage.
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