Eva Vives’ drama comedy about a fracture comedienne is one of the most honest and engaging dramas of the year, and “All About Nina” is a success mainly because of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s stellar performance. Winstead is one of the most underrated and overlooked actresses of modern cinema. She’s mostly been relegated to playing supporting characters and final girls most of her career, but given the right material she’s shone in roles that should have earned her awards notice. She was immense in “Smashed” and she’s remarkable in “All About Nina.”
Wistead plays Nina Geld a popular up and coming comedian who is building her fan base and career and is aiming to get called to audition for a legendary show called “Comedy Prime!” Behind the scenes she’s a self loathing borderline alcoholic who sleeps with every man she meets, and is stuck in an affair. But when she meets Rafe at a club one night, she realizes he’s actually a genuinely good man, and wants to build a real romance. But Nina begins to doubt whether she can be happy, and not sabotage her own life, especially as she continues trying to deal with the pain of a horrendous childhood trauma. In “All About Nina” Winstead feels right at home as this gorgeous stand up comedian who is struggling to be taken seriously in her career.
Nina is a woman who has a lot against her in the sense that she’s very good looking and she’s in a career where woman are still struggling to be noticed and respected by their contemporaries. Even worse she’s dealing with a secret that could destroy her life if she doesn’t destroy it first. Winstead is fantastic, portraying this broken, insecure and truly messed up woman who projectile pukes after every gig, and whose only compliments after a stand up segment involves her looks and how much guys want to fuck her. In the opening after giving a raucous set, Nina sits at the bar getting drunk while the following comedians spend their opening jokes explaining how much they want to sleep with her. Nina Geld is a flawed human being but a compelling lead character who’s chosen a ton of outlets to deal with the pain she’s experienced in her life.
She uses booze to numb her pain, and she uses comedy to convey her pain, and none of them seem to be working. As gets older her self realization that she has to change her life; this leads her in to a series of conflicts involving improving her own outlook on life, and facing a pain that she is having an impossible time getting past. She’s sublime whenever she’s on stage discussing her evident childhood trauma that’s affected her lack of actual human connection. Nina is a girl who is her own worst enemy, and she can barely comprehend how to handle happiness when it presents itself to her in the form of Rafe. Common as Rafe is wonderful, playing beautifully off of Winstead, depicting a character that is gradually revealed to be as dysfunctional as she is, but might have a better grasp on his pain.
Their chemistry and romantic tension is charming, and the dichotomy of their characters’ approaches to pain and sadness allows for some riveting conflict. Winstead just shines, grabbing every scene she shares with others, and “All About Nina” excels as a fantastic character study for this #metoo world, that explores a young woman’s path to self destruction and the hope she can find happiness before it’s too late.
Now in Select Theaters.