Stand-up comedian searches for freedom from her past

Eva Vives writes and directs All About Nina—an intimate and personal story about a troubled rising comedian. The comedy stage gives Nina a platform to be truthful, when her reality is built up upon lies. (KIZJ: 4/5)

Review by FF2 Contributing Editor Katusha Jin

“Nina Geld” (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a promising performer roaming the comedy bars in New York. She performs bits in a provocative, playful, and no nonsense manner. After one of her usual performances, she routinely goes backstage to vomit and follows this by downing alcohol. As part of the daily continuation of her messy relationships with guys, she approaches a young man at the bar. After his refusal to buy her a drink, she asks if he wants to cut to the chase and leave now. The two make their way back to Nina’s apartment only for her to find “Joe” (Chace Crawford), an obviously unwelcome guest, waiting for her. The young man takes his pack of beer and leaves Nina to fend for herself. Joe abusively slaps Nina, and the violent night quickly turns into a morning of numbing regret. As Nina recollects last night and a prior visit to a therapist, she practices one of her new pieces of material about guys and rape. It becomes evident that even the darker parts of her comedy material are somehow based on her real life.

Fed up with her situation, Nina pays Joe’s home a visit with the intention of informing his wife of what’s been going on. But her reach for help and understanding is stifled when the wife mercilessly threatens Nina and asks her to leave. Nina genuinely considers this and realizes it may actually be what she needs. She calls her agent, “Carrie” (Angelique Cabral) and asks if she may still audition for “Comedy Prime”, a show that she previously agreed to do but didn’t show up for. Carrie reminds her that the the owner, Larry, would still require her to perform stand-up in Los Angeles as an audition. After paying her mother, “Deborah” (Camryn Manheim), a goodbye visit, she packs her bags and is off to the city of angels.

Carrie organizes for Nina to stay at a writer’s, “Lake” (Kate del Castillo), place whilst waiting for the Los Angeles audition. Lake is the complete opposite of Nina; she practices Reiki and reads people’s energies. During her first night, Lake takes her to an event where the people sit in the circle of truth. As each person confesses to things “they should not have seen”, Nina finds it too overwhelming and leaves. Soon after, Nina meets “Rafe” (Common), a man who tries to show her the possibility of a different type of relationship.

Eva Vives’ film, All About Nina, is very raw and unfiltered. It provokes in topics that people are usually uncomfortable with. People in comedy have to constantly put themselves out there in a most vulnerable state. They toughen up from the stage that forces them to be constantly judged for what they say.  This film is raw, sensitive, and harsh, and this is all portrayed perfectly by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Winstead is a perfect cast by Rich Delia for the character of Nina—she’s rough around the edges, but only as a way to protect herself. Edited by Saira Haider and Susan Littenberg, the pacing of the film is well done. Kelly Fallon’s production design is also worth mentioning for the down-to-earth and realistic atmosphere it builds for the characters. A common theme throughout the film is the value of truth. Vives’ story questions whether freedom is attained by presenting or hiding the truth. Through Nina, Vives shows a character who learns to see the potential value in being truthful to oneself.

© Katusha Jin (01/14/19) FF2 Media

Top Photo: All About Nina Poster.

Middle Photo: “Nina” (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) performing stand-up comedy.

Bottom Photo: Nina meeting writer “Lake” (Kate del Castillo) in Los Angeles.

Photo Credits: Elizabeth Kitchens

Does All About Nina pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?

Yes. Nina talks to her mother about her move to Los Angeles.

Tags: FF2 Media

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As part of the FF2 Media team, Katusha Jin interviews filmmakers, write features and reviews, and coaches other associates. She grew up in the UK and studied briefly in Russia and China before moving to New York for college. Graduating magna cum laude from New York University, Katusha majored in Film and Television at Tisch School of the Arts with minors in Business and Philosophy. She has worked as a producer, director, writer, and composer for various award-winning projects including short films, branded content, independent features, and music videos.
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