Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Rating unavailable
If you want to talk about stars being born, consider Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance as the title character in All About Nina. As a standup comic tentatively facing her worst fears, the young Fargo veteran has to be funny, vulnerable, and also tough as nails, on-stage and off-. She does all that and more, almost wiping out the perception that the movie doesn’t entirely deserve her performance.
Winstead was pretty good as a soggy drunk in the otherwise wobbly Smashed, and she likes her spirits here, too. Intriguingly, she’s more likely to drink, and throw up, right after being on-stage than before. One could say that her standup act, glimpsed in a few New York City comedy dives, is itself a kind of prolonged purge, mostly about her real-life aversion to relationships, her preference for purely carnal hookups, and the many ways men get even that shit wrong.
Nina’s only attempt at continuity these days seems to come at the violent hands of a married cop—one who looks more like a TV detective, thanks to the casting of Gossip Girl’s Chace Crawford in this throwaway role. Her origin story is hinted at when she has a short visit with her mother (remember Camryn Manheim from The Practice?). In any case, it’s a good break when she’s offered a shot at auditioning for Comedy Prime, a fictional, SNL–type show based in Los Angeles, with Beau Bridges appearing briefly as its Lorne Michaels–like producer.
So Nina heads west, and the movie starts to go south.
All the witty dialogue and neurotic foibles seem to be building to some creative explosion and/or meltdown, but instead, first-time writer-director Eva Vives concentrates on fixing Nina up with the right guy. Winstead has sufficient chemistry with rapper Common, who likewise played a solicitous helpmate in HBO’s The Tale, and here is a wealthy contractor who just might be able to ground our flighty gal. But is that really what the story needed?
Even dodgier is the place Nina lands in L.A., in the ritzy Silver Lake pad of a wealthy New-Age writer played by Mexican Kate del Castillo. She’s a reiki-practising lesbian who dances to a sitcom beat.
It’s hard to say why the Madrid-born Vives thought a movie about a comedian needed comic relief, or why so much diversity needed to be rolled into one character.
Still, Winstead suffers fools well and, in the end, is left standing tall.