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Review: Mary Elizabeth Winstead dives deep in ‘All About Nina’

Camryn Manheim and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a scene from the movie, All About Nina. Photo Credit:
Camryn Manheim, left, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the movie “All About Nina.”
(Elizabeth Kitchens / The Orchard)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as brash stand-up comic Nina Geld in writer/director Eva Vives’ bold debut “All About Nina,” which lures you with jokes and then explores the effect of long-term, repressed trauma. Like the groundbreaking comedy special “Hannah Gadsby: Nanette,” it uses humor as a blunt-force weapon to unearth a woman’s rage and pain.

Whiskey-swilling, black-leather clad Nina is daring and sexually frank, a tough girl, yet constantly propositioned in her workplace, the comedy club scene. When an abusive relationship with a married cop, Joe (Chace Crawford), spirals out of control, she moves to L.A.

The film is also a love story, which at times can be a bit of a mismatch, like Nina and her new L.A. love interest, the strong, sensitive Rafe (Common). There are moments where the chemistry can feel a bit off, but Rafe represents a much-needed change for Nina.

Vives’ filmmaking is confident, threading the needle on some emotionally complex scenes, but the film works because of Winstead’s bravura performance, taking Nina to a place of raw, deep emotional honesty. Both bleakly humorous and laugh out loud funny, the brilliant “All About Nina” is a powerful film about the importance of women’s voices, and the change that can come from telling your story.

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‘All About Nina’

Rated: R, for strong sexual content and language throughout, some nudity and brief drug use

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Playing: Starts Sept. 28, ArcLight Hollywood; AMC Dine-In Sunset 5, West Hollywood

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