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

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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).

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.