Nina (I) (2016)
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I know virtually nothing about Nina Simone's life, but this film does not want to portray what her life was during her prime. Instead it relies on itty bitty pieces of dialogue during interviews and conversations with Nina's old friend Richard Pryor. It is set during the last decade of her life, when she is mentally ill, unstably alcoholic and very difficult to tolerate. Clifton (David Oyelowo), the nurse at the mental hospital where she is interred, takes her in, looks after her and eventually becomes her manager.
The real problem with this movie is, glaringly, the time period of Nina's life. It's not a good one, and very little happens in the movie. We start her off as a little girl defying racial segregation so that her parents can sit in the front row. Nothing else is shown of her rise to fame and struggles, which makes the film feel very empty.
One thing I really didn't like is the erasure of Clifton's homosexuality. Although he and Nina are not seen intimate with each other (at one point she calls him the F word when he refuses to have sex with her) there is a small implication. Why couldn't they show everyone he was gay?
The last thing is of course Zoe Saldana as Nina. I personally feel the criticism (and it was extremely scornful) was very unfair. She did the best with what she was given, and she should be praised for it. The problem is not the color of her skin, its the age. She is supposed to be in her sixties, and yet Saldana is actually younger than David Oyelowo! They really couldn't find an older actress?
At times the movie was painfully boring, badly paced and perhaps unintentionally funny. 5 out 10.
I thought there would be no way in hell this film could go wrong. I was very excited to hear Mary J was going to play Nina because it was important like Ray that the actor was able to sing.
This was certainly not the case. All I want to know is, why their was such a rush to make a great project into such a bad movie? And the rush of filming was quickly noticed in this film. Lack of love and effort and talent.
Put all these actors together and it doesn't come close to Simone's talent. That for me says it all about this movie.
I cant say the same for the movie Ray with Jamie Fox and the countless talents played in that film, while also Ali, The Help and Seven Years a Slave. All films that portrait The struggles of the African American Movement.
Nina should have been a TV Special!
I only hope that like the new Marilyn project this disaster will be remade in a year from now with casting directors that choose to wear glasses when picking the actors. Every actors in this movie were made to play shadow roles and they do them well. Please keep them there!
Yet another film of a famous person that in reality is just an excuse to show off mental illness. In this case the bipolar condition of Nina Simone.
The film assumes that the viewer already is familiar with her life. I wasn't. I only knew her by having heard a couple of her songs. The start of the film rushes ahead through her life to the very end of her life. But it doesn't start at the end and show flash backs. Well... sort of. It was mostly just a confusing mess and I had no clue what her career was like up to the end (where the film begins). The first concert she does is in a small bar. So as a viewer I'm like, OK, so this is the kind of concerts she had. And then I'm told she is one of the most famous singers. OK, so why is she in a small bar performing if she is so famous? And then somebody says that she should be in a huge concert hall, and not in a small bar. And I'm like, yes, so why isn't she? Please tell me, the viewer. No information.
The film revolves around her (non-romantic) relationship with her nurse/assistant/manager. This is uninteresting. It never goes anywhere and there's very little tension. I suspect it's just badly acted. David Oyelowo plays the assistant. I had never heard of him. So I looked him up. He has a long career of so-so stuff. So he doesn't seem particularly talented. He seems to be established as a middling talent. So it's an odd casting. It seems to me like he just didn't have what it took to make this role work.
Zoe Saldana plays Nina Simone. This is also not particularly interesting. But I don't think it's the acting that's the problem this time. I suspect the problem here is the script. A string of scenes showing a crazy person doing crazy things is not interesting. This is not a comedy. The craziness has to be coupled with her being sensible sometimes. There has to be some sort of balance. Nina Simone in this film goes from being disturbingly weird to being bouncing-off-the-walls-in-a-padded-cell- crazy. She's impossible to like. But she's famous for being a musical genius. She created amazing music and trail-blazed against all odds and conquered the world. This is not shown in this film. Nina Simone in this film is just nuts with no redeeming qualities. It's the stuff that made her famous that I'm interested in. This film provides none of it.
They use the "Angry Black Woman" trope to it's fullest extent. Sure, Nina Simone does have ample reason to be angry. But this character seems utterly consumed by it. It's like she has nothing else going for her in her life.
It would be nice with a film about a historical black person that doesn't focus on how much a victim he or she is. I'm not saying that black people historically haven't suffered. What I'm saying is that, by looking at the movies produced focusing on black people, black history seems to be defined by being a victim and nothing else. I'm starting to find this tedious. And in this film it's especially obvious, since her talents are so down-played. It's all about Nina, the crazy victim.
I learned almost nothing about Nina Simone's music career.
As far as Zoe is concerned, she is one of the most underrated actresses of our generation so it was easy for her to relate to the whole situation. She did her best knowing she would get attacked randomly for being creative and wanting to portrait a complex woman on so many level. I say thumbs up to Ms Seldana for delivering and presenting a yet another wonderful performance in her career.
The film also had a very poor screenplay, and I took issue with it's treatment of Nina Simone as a woman with mental illness, it really lacked subtlety and relied very heavily on clichéd ideas about mental illness which I don't think reflect Nina Simone as a person. In fact, I think the entire film missed the mark in capturing the essence of Nina Simone.
And, finally, and by far the most disappointing, the music! Well... the music was OK, whoever the band were did a decent job. But Saldana's strained singing was terrible.
The movie was boring at best, and offensive at worst. It was a horrible disappointment.
This is a movie about spiritual struggle and expression of that struggle through music, and is not suitable for children. But it's honest, and whether or not it was true to Nina Simone's spirit, I don't know. But Zoe Saldana is, perhaps, her own elemental force, with a sense for rhythm that is genius and gentle and lots of good things. This movie has some stirring music that is never unpleasant to listen to, and, at times, is a bit sparse.
Is the movie true, at least, in it's message that our personal salvation is found in how we love one another? More directly, I thought that this movie directed our attention away from racism towards social taboos against relationships that are none of the above.
Overall, Saldana's performance was just OK. It's not the worse thing I've ever seen, it's not the best performance I've ever seen. It's not a milestone in her acting career, unlike her co-star David Oyelowo's magnificent turn as Doctor Martian Luther King Jr. in the movie, Selma. Mike Epps made an interesting cameo as Richard Pryor in the movie which left me something more than Saldana as Simone.
Nina is a focus on the last eight or so years of Simone's life, which was odd as Saldana (and the make up job they did on her) did not convince me she was a 70 year old woman. Mainly, it centers around the relationship Nina had with her new manager, Clifton Henderson.
It's another one of these films that tells us more about the type of personality the artist is rather than anything about the person's life. It's similar to Don Cheadle's take on Miles Davis in the film Miles Ahead, but that film had some magic in it that this movie does not.
Saldana and the film did an OK job letting us know the type of artist Nina Simone was, but you did not feel the passion behind it. I know it's near impossible to create a motion picture about Nina that would visually do what Simone could do with her musical talents, but I did not feel any effort towards it at all.
So overall, at the moment Saldana still has playing the most ionic woman in Sci-Fi on the top of her resume, while playing the greatest singer of all time will not even register. The make-up was fine and her voice was satisfying, but like I said I was not expected her to sound like Nina Simone, but this movie is not passionate like her music.
This movie does not portray the elegance in her artistry or why she mattered. This movie will forever be remembered for MODERN DAY BLACKFACE.
I was half expecting an apology to Nina Simone and her family before the end credits.
How is this movie sitting at 5 out of 10 stars?
Shame on you Hollywood
Everything in this movie may not be exactly true but then the movie doesn't tell us everything about Nina Simone's past either.
Director/writer: Cynthia Mort wants to show us Nina as a creative spirit caught in a black woman's body at a time when being black, female, talented, and beautiful may have opened a few doors but the struggle to bring beauty and soul freely into this society was full of road blocks, speed bumps, and potholes. Zoe Saldana being beautiful herself brings a touching and emotional Nina to life.
Nina struggled with substance abuse problems and spells of mental illness. Her need to sing is brought to the surface here and Zoe becomes Nina and the spirit of Nina shines. This is a fine and wonderful film.
I love biographical films. A truly amazing bio flick should either highlight an important time in the artist's life or it should summarize perfectly the life lived in 2 hours. This movie truly fails. Recently, I saw a documentary of Nina Simone's life and it is a very complicated history with lots of stories to tell. Why did this movie decide to highlight this part of her life? It makes no sense. With all of the limited series on television now days, I would love there to be a series that highlights an artist for 10 episodes. Nina Simone deserves that type of treatment.
I say watch this movie if you want 90 minutes of listening to Nina Simone's greatest hits.
Overall. Flaws aside, this film does have a little bit of substance. It's not as bad as Lifetime's terrible attempt at the Aaliyah or Whitney movie-- but it isn't as good at 'What's Love Got to Do With It?' or 'Crazy Sexy Cool- the TLC Story'
I hope this review helps
This film never gets a handle on its subject, it really is all over the place. It sets up to its story from the point of view of Clifton Henderson (David Oyelowo) the psychiatric nurse who becomes her assistant and later her manager.
Henderson has a difficult task caring for a diva with mental health issues, money problems, a bad reputation and a voice that is losing its edge. Promoters do not make money from her, clubs do not want to book her and audiences refuse to stay silent when she sings.
Director Cynthia Mort had her work cut out to make Nina a sympathetic figure despite her support for the civil rights movement. Nina did not want sympathy when she was alive. Nina would sometimes go on stage and wind up the audience by not singing her greatest hits. Apparently Mort did not have the final cut to this film but what we have is a disappointing bio-pic.
The acting was great, unfortunately the editing and script left much to be desired. It concentrated too much on her demons and little to nothing on her music. One would argue that was in intent, but they missed an opportunity to make a truly entertaining film.
Guide: F-word. Implied sex. Minor rear nudity.