Within the first few minutes of All About Nina, the debut feature from writer-director Eva Vives, we get the highlight reel version of just who this Nina is through quickly strung glimpses of her stand-up routine: period jokes, punchlines about how men screw everything up, a familiar brand of misandrist comedy that gets her both lauded and confronted for her brash honesty.
Thirty-three-year-old Nina (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has all the predictable traits of a candid female comic. She wears a black leather jacket, a tough exterior that matches her hardened heart, and dates casually but has commitment issues and is often attracted to the wrong type, like her on-again, off-again lover, an abusive married cop (Chase Crawford). Winstead's casting is a godsend, as she makes Nina a compelling watch even as the movie burns through all there is to know about this stereotype just after its opening scenes.
Vives relies heavily on cliché cues, showing us the extent of Nina's damage with scenes of her smoking cigarettes in the shower, puking backstage or making provocative sentiments about her abusive relationship: "keeps me from falling asleep during sex." The film perks up with new energy when Nina meets a guy named Rafe (Common, with a performance that proves he should lead every romantic comedy). Their courtship is also predictable but at least fun to watch.
Winstead is wildly funny (and spot on) doing the impressions in Nina's act (especially of Bjork ordering a smoothie) but also proves uninhibited and candid when Nina doesn't have jokes to hide behind.