Movie Review: ‘ALL ABOUT NINA’ a rom-com with a bitter heart

Kip Mooney // Film Critic

ALL ABOUT NINA

Rated R, 97 Minutes
Director: Eva Vives
Cast: Mary Elizabeth WinsteadCommonChace CrawfordKate del Castillo and Beau Bridges

There’s been a lot of talk this year about what exactly counts as comedy. If a show is a half-hour long, but delves into mental health and murder, is it a sitcom? If a woman stands at a microphone for an hour and tells her very personal story, but doesn’t tell many jokes, is it stand-up comedy? And now into this bursts ALL ABOUT NINA, which is romantic and sexy and funny, but also a blistering exploration of an extremely damaged woman.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives the performance of her career – and for my money, the best performance of any lead actress so far this year – as Nina, a New York comic who has no problem being frank during her stand-up sets, but rarely exhibits any honesty with the people she’s closest to. When her agent informs her she’s a finalist for a comedy showcase, she bolts for L.A., hoping to clear her head, avoid her abusive ex (Chace Crawford) and finally move ahead in her career.

But her change of scenery presents its own challenges. Her hostess (Kate del Castillo) can’t mind her own business and her self-destructive impulses aren’t under control. She’s also falling hard for Rafe (Common), an older businessman who refuses to let her sabotage their budding romance with her worst impulses.

After years of being miscast as assassins and bodyguards, Common excels as a romantic leading man. He’s got a warmth and commitment that makes him a great counterpoint to Nina, while never pretending that he has it all together. There’s an intimacy here that’s often lacking in other romantic comedies.

ALL ABOUT NINA isn’t as above rom-com clichés as it thinks it is, but it’s honest about its characters, sometimes brutally so. Late in the third act, Nina reveals a dark secret from her past that then brings her sometimes abhorrent behavior into a new light. It’s rough stuff that keeps this from being an edgy date movie, but makes it a better, more challenging film.

[Grade: B+]

ALL ABOUT NINA opens in select theaters on Friday (10/5).

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