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To escape a difficult ex and to prepare for a prospectively life-changing audition, Nina flees to Los Angeles where she meets Rafe (Common), who challenges almost every preconception she has – including those around her own deeply troubled past.Elizabeth Kitchens/The Orchard

  • Title: All About Nina
  • Written and directed by: Eva Vives
  • Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Common and Beau Bridges
  • Classification: 14A; 97 minutes

Rating:

3 out of 4 stars

A scene from All About Nina.Elizabeth Kitchens/The Orchard

Although Eva Vives wrote the screenplay for her latest film before Louis C.K. was banished from and then quickly resurfaced in the comedy world, before Hannah Gadsby subverted the stand-up form with her Netflix special Nanette, before audiences tossed up and down their thoughts about Aziz Ansari … before the entire cultural landscape flipped on its head and then readjusted itself, really, All About Nina still feels like a movie baked into the entertainment world’s here and now. Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a fledgling comedian who is fearless onstage but rightfully wary of nearly everything else off of it, All About Nina is a compelling, honest and occasionally messy middle finger to the expectations placed on female entertainers – or just simply women at all. Mining what I can only assume are years’ worth of frustration with the industry, Vives creates a deliberately uncomfortable character study – we’re not supposed to side with Nina 100 per cent of the time as she makes her way through L.A.’s brutal scene, and that’s exactly the thing. Mostly, Vives' work is a series of punch lines that feel more like gut punches – a relentless challenge that Winstead handles with seeming ease. The only moment that rings false is when a too-good-to-be-true white knight strolls into Nina’s life. But since this Mr. Right is played with a quiet smoothness by Common, that’s a small gaffe.

All About Nina opens Oct. 12

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