Mary Elizabeth Winstead hits it out of the park with her portrayal of Nina Geld, a troubled comedian (that’s redundant, isn’t it) with a dark secret that impacts her performance and helps her screw up most of her life. The film is a journey to healing that begins with a move to Los Angeles and preparation for her one big shot at “Comedy Prime,” and we follow Nina through her stand up gigs at noted comedy venues and a romance with Rafe “who’s just the right amount of screwed up.”
Nina’s new roommate Lake, (portrayed by Mexican actress Kate Del Castillo) who is on a new-age journey of self-undertanding, offers “the truth shall set you free,” and brings Nina to a kooky but sweet backyard gathering, where the leader asks each person to reveal something about themselves. Even though Nina refuses to participate, eventually she gets to a place where she has a breakdown on the stage and shines that bright light of truth into an ugly, scary part of her life. Unfortunately it’s at a most inopportune moment, and she’s sure she’s ruined her shot at fame.
Rafe, portrayed with an earnest sweetness by noted rapper/actor Common, sticks with Nina through all of her foibles. He watches Nina command the stage, only to careen out of control when she steps out of the spotlight. When an abusive ex-boyfriend cop shows up backstage to pursue her, Rafe steps up to put him in his place. It’s a great moment. The big surprise here is Common, who has to deftly navigate his character around a self-destructive love interest. His portrayal of love, compassion and understanding rounds out Winstead’s off-the-rails Nina.
If the film feels raw, it’s because it’s based on truth. ALL ABOUT NINA is Eva Vives debut feature, and is semi-autobiographical. As Vives stated in Entertainment Weekly interview, “It’s very much my story, except I’ve never done stand-up comedy. Everything else is very much taken out of my life. Definitely in terms of everything she says on stage during her breakdown is me. I was abused by my father for eight years.”
Nina’s mother (Camryn Mannheim) is Nina’s biggest supporter and the scene where she’s watching the viral youtube video of her daughter’s breakdown is emotional, powerful. Don’t miss the chance to see this one. It leaves you thinking long after the credits roll. It’s on VOD now on Amazon Prime or VUDU.