Director: Cynthia Mort
Duration: 87 minutes
Nina (DVD) – Movie Review
The name Nina Simone probably rings a bell with most of us. As a singer and human rights activist, she gained quite some fame over the years, be it with ups and downs. The film Nina promises to give some more insight into the singer’s life, which sounded very interesting to us. Unfortunately, not all of our expectations were met.
It’s 1988 when the film starts, and Nina (Zoe Saldana) is not doing too well. She is committed into a psychiatric hospital after threatening a lawyer with a gun. She’s emotionally unstable, and her drinking habit doesn’t really help with that either. While at the hospital, she meets Clifton (David Oyelowo), who is a nurse there. After she is released the following day, she convinces Clifton to come with her to France, and take care of all of her business, an opportunity he decides to take. She has quite the diva attitude though, and refuses to take her pills, and thus it doesn’t take long before Clifton moves back home.
When Nina gets the results of a biopsy she had done, she realizes she needs Clifton, and thus she heads back to America as well, to show up on his doorstep. She offers him to be her manager, which he agrees to, be it hesitantly. And so, he moves back to France with her and gets to work, trying to find her some gigs. It isn’t easy though, as Nina seems to have an attitude wherever she goes.
Singer. Activist. Survivor. Legend. That’s what it says on the cover of this DVD release. Truth be told, it made our expectations quite high, expectations, we must say, that weren’t quite met. The film certainly shows what Nina Simone was capable of vocally. Through little snippets, in which Nina is interviewed about her work as a human rights activist, you also get a sense of what she stands for on that front, but these snippets stand alone and don’t have any context given to them, and thus miss their mark a bit. Also, the main focus of the film lies on the singer’s later life, and while there are some flashbacks shown, these too don’t really get a proper context, leaving us with more questions than answers after watching the film. The main storyline isn’t bad, but it certainly would have gained from a little more insight into Nina’s past, but instead we ended up with only little fragments that don’t really do the trick.
We must say that the acting made up for a lot in this film. Both Zoe Saldana and David Oyelowo were very convincing in what they did. Saldana showed that she’s a real artist who hopefully has much more in store for us. She portrayed Nina Simone in an honest way, thus really giving you an idea of the woman Nina was. Oyelowo actually seems much younger in the film than he is in real life, but he managed to give his character a youthful cheerfulness, even after the umpteenth disappointment he had to endure.
There aren’t any extras included in this release. Again, it feels a bit like a lost opportunity. As not much about Nina’s early career is told in the film, it would have been nice to have some additional information in the extras. Also, we were quite curious as to why the director decided to focus on Nina’s later life for the most part, as we were left with some questions, as we mentioned already. An answer to these questions would have satisfied us more, but unfortunately, the answers can’t be found on the DVD.
Nina looked to be a promising film, but while the storyline wasn’t bad and certainly entertaining enough, it let us down in quite a few ways. After watching the film, we didn’t get the feeling that we knew much more about Nina Simone, and looking for answers in the extras wasn’t an option either, as there simply weren’t any included. Luckily, the acting performances were quite on point, and thus we are left with mixed feelings on this one. If you are looking for a nice film about some random singer with a drinking problem, than this will definitely entertain you. However, if you hoped to find out more about Nina Simone’s life and career, you could as well skip on this one and watch a documentary instead.