- 1 hr 30 min
Nina is a 2016 biographical drama film that chronicles the life of the legendary American singer, pianist, civil rights activist, and songwriter Nina Simone. The film stars Zoe Saldana in the titular role, alongside David Oyelowo as her manager Clifton Henderson and Kevin Mambo as her husband and former manager Andrew Stroud. The film is directed by Cynthia Mort and tells the story of Simone's struggle with racism, mental illness, and the pressures of the music industry.
The movie opens with a young Nina Simone performing at a concert in Atlantic City, where she first encounters Clifton Henderson. It then jumps to Simone's later years when she is living in France, and we get to know her through flashbacks. She's an alcoholic and a recluse, and her health is deteriorating. Despite this, people are constantly trying to get her to perform, but she has lost her love for music and instead spends her days drinking and chain-smoking.
We learn that Simone's journey was not an easy one. Her family was poor, and she was discriminated against because of the color of her skin. Her dreams of becoming a concert pianist were dashed when she was rejected by the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, allegedly because of her race. But Simone was a fighter, and she refused to give up on her dream. She started playing in bars and nightclubs, and at one of her shows, she met Andrew Stroud, a former police officer turned manager. The two got married and moved to New York, where Stroud became Simone's manager.
Simone's career took off, and she became known for her unique style of music that blended classical, jazz, and gospel. Her songs often dealt with the themes of civil rights and black pride, making her a voice for the African American community. But her fame came at a cost; she faced racial discrimination and was often denied lodging and service at hotels and restaurants. Simone also struggled with mental health issues, including bipolar disorder.
The film shows the complicated relationship between Simone and Stroud. They had a tumultuous marriage, and Stroud was often physically abusive towards her. But he also mentored her career and was instrumental in her success. Oyelowo's performance as Clifton Henderson, an orderly in a psychiatric hospital who becomes Simone's personal assistant, is also commendable. Henderson becomes Simone's confidant and helps her through some rough times.
Zoe Saldana's casting as Simone was controversial, given the actress's lighter complexion and the use of makeup to darken her skin tone. Some felt that the role should have gone to a darker-skinned actress who would better embody Simone's powerful presence. But Saldana's performance portrays Simone's struggles with authenticity, and she captures the essence of her powerful music.
The film's soundtrack is a highlight, as it features several of Simone's iconic songs, including Feeling Good, Sinnerman, My Baby Just Cares For Me, and Mississippi Goddamn. The music adds to the film's powerful narrative and gives us an insight into Nina Simone's talent and legacy.
The film's pacing can be slow at times, and it doesn't delve too deeply into certain parts of Simone's story. Still, it's a compelling look at the life of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. It portrays Simone as a warrior, a trailblazer, and an inspiration to marginalized communities around the world.
In conclusion, Nina is a poignant biopic about the life of the legendary Nina Simone, brought to life by an exceptional cast and an amazing soundtrack. It's a powerful tribute to one of the most important artists of our time, and a reminder of the struggles she faced and the obstacles she overcame.
Nina is a 2016 music movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 30 minutes. It has received mostly poor reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 5.4 and a MetaScore of 27.