In a scene about half-way through "All About Nina," the feature film debut of writer-director Eva Vives
, 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. Vives (and Winstead) really understand 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. Nina lives a chaotic mostly-nocturnal life. She works small comedy clubs, vomiting immediately after every show, fighting off sexual come-ons from male comics. She takes men home for anonymous drunken sex; these guys barely know what hit them. She drinks too much. She smokes in the shower. She has stilted dinners with her mother (a beautiful cameo by Camryn Manheim
). Her married lover (Chace Crawford
) is violent, but she keeps going back to him. Nina is, to put it mildly, a trainwreck. Her standup act is very angry and not particularly funny, but she is so cynical and frank about sex and bodily functions audiences find it cathartic. Her agent (Angelique Cabral
) gets her an audition with "Comedy Prime" (clearly based on "Saturday Night Live"). To compensate for its reputation as a boys club, "Comedy Prime" has summoned many female comics to audition, in essence pitting the women against each other. Nina, dressed all in black, the picture of a grumpy New Yorker, flies out to Los Angeles for the audition. This is all established in the extremely busy first 10 minutes of "All About Nina." Once the film reaches Los Angeles, it hits a speed bump and finds its real stride.
Encoded by Hay Man
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