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.
‘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