W A R N I N G
IF YOU ARE A RECENT SEXUALLY ASSAULT SURVIVOR OR HAVE NOT DONE YET INTENSE THERAPEUTIC WORK ABOUT PAST ABUSE ISSUES DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE ALONE. IT WILL TRIGGER YOU.
“All About Nina” is a 2017 movie based on the life of a 33 year old female up and coming comedian trying to make it in a very hard unrelenting career. The movie shows her both on and off stage. For me it was easy to see that her comedy was based on her own out of control personal life where the lines were blurred between life and work. Her “edge” on stage was getting new career opportunities while that same “edge” was imploding her real life.
Some of the themes observed in “All About Nina” were inspired by the abuse that director/screenwriter Eva Vives suffered at the hands of her father, for eight years, when she was a child. Vives was born in Madrid and raised in Barcelona, Catalonia, where she lived until she was 18, at which point she moved to New York City in 1994 to attend New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
In a scene about half-way through “All About Nina,” standup comedian Nina (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), wakes up after a night spent with a new man. The night went really, really well. This is new territory for Nina, who normally charges through life like a porcupine. She gets into the shower and promptly has a panic attack, curling up on the floor, heaving for breath, tears streaming down her face. This is when I knew “All About Nina” was up to something a little bit different.
This prickly armored woman, a woman who weeps with sadness after a great night, whose anger isn’t obliterated magically by the possibility of joy. “All About Nina” understands that happiness can be extremely stressful. If you’re unused to happiness, you don’t know what to do with it. You may, in fact, deliberately torch it, just so you can get back to the misery that is familiar. Not too many films—really, not too many people—understand this dynamic.
“All About Nina” has moments of stark tragedy alongside the vivid comedy, plus a third-act revelation of what has made Nina so angry. While the revelatory scene is a ferocious piece of acting from Winstead, the backstory is shoehorned in, because by that point you don’t need anything specific to “explain” Nina’s anger. This is a woman who has had to fight and claw for everything she’s got. She’s gifted with language, but “bad at life.” Art is made up of people like this.
“All About Nina” worked on me by stealth. A couple of things don’t work, and the story is a little bit top-heavy. The film is trying to do a lot, maybe too much or maybe too little. When here career blows up on YouTube her manager tells her she needs to get a publicist to help her do damage control instead of telling her she might need some mental health help.
Winstead does not hold back in portraying Nina’s more unsympathetic characteristics, her harshness, her horrible choices, her refusal to be vulnerable. Winstead does not keep one eye on us in the audience, hoping we will find her character “sympathetic.” She is beyond those concerns as an actress. She goes where Nina goes. This is a major performance.
But I didn’t get the full impact of “All About Nina” until the final credits rolled. I was still thinking about it 24 hours later. Perhaps a personal response is the hardest to express. I think what I admired most is how unafraid “All About Nina” was of being “dark.” Because too many of us “dark” isn’t really “dark” at all, it’s just the norm. The movie digs into this, lives there.
The lead male actor is old school rapper and social commentator “Common”. His performance as Nina’s love interest was strong, caring and very sexual. He also provided the sound track as the final credits were rolling and it was one of his lines that jumped out at me like white in rice, “YOU HAVE TO BE WHOLE TO FIND YOUR BETTER HALF.” That sentence kind of wraps up the entire movie and puts a bow on it for me. This movie at the end of the day is about sex and love addiction, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), sexual abuse and alcoholism.
It’s common to want stories of unhappy people to end in redemption, or to dovetail into an “empowerment” narrative. “All About Nina“ is “empowering,” I guess, but it’s something much better than that. It’s true. It’s messy and raw and true.
As much as I liked it I am hesitant to recommend it, so please think twice and remember self –care is our #1 job. If this movie did personally resonate with you, some additional life help might be in order. This “stuff” just doesn’t go away, this is not a stage and a phase like acne that will be out grown.
If you think I can be of service please don’t hesitate to contact me and remember, misery IS optional.