Mary Elizabeth Winstead is one of the most underrated actresses working today. Even though she has bounced from genre to genre and delivered a slew of quality performances, she still hasn’t been able to break through. One reason is probably because the films she’s done aren’t always as good as her talents. Well, thankfully, she has found a starring vehicle as amazing as she is. In the tragicomedy All About Nina, she not only gives the performance of her career but a performance that should put her in the awards conversation for Best Actress.
The story follows Nina Geld (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a stand-up comic whose professional career is starting to take off. However, her personal life is on a downward spiral due to her heavy alcoholism and her being in an abusive relationship with a married cop (Chace Crawford). Wanting to get a fresh start in her life and jump start her career, Nina decides to move out to Los Angeles. That is where she meets Rafe (Common), a kind man who sweeps her off her feet and may be someone who can help her put her life back on track.
Despite All About Nina being a story about a comedienne, it still is hardly a laughing matter. As the film progresses, it becomes revealed that Nina has had a very troubled past. However, most of the scenes where Nina does stand-up are a major source of humor. One reason is due to Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s ferocious comedic timing. Winstead expertly nails not just the film’s dramatic beats but its ornery comical wit as well. Sometimes, she weaves comedy and drama together in the same scene, using a funny quip as a way to mask her internal anguish.
But while All About Nina is mainly a showcase for Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the rest of the cast is pretty solid. Common does a nice job as Rafe and attempts to play his role as more than an archetypal nice guy. Also, actors like Chace Crawford, Camryn Manheim, Clea DuVall, and Beau Bridges are solid even if they aren’t given as much to work with. Although, those actors are still given more material than Melonie Diaz who disappointingly has a “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo. As a fan of Melonie Diaz and her work in the underrated Fruitvale Station, I just thought it was unfortunate to see her cast in such a small role.
Thankfully, that’s the film’s only disappointing aspect. Everything else is amazing even if the film relies mostly on its leading performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. She is an absolute tour-de-force as a sharply hilarious comedienne desperate to make her life stable. After years of putting in great performances, hopefully, this criminally underrated performer will finally get her due with her performance in this. In the upcoming Best Actress race, it should be All About Mary!!