Biography / Drama / Music
Biography / Drama / Music
The story of the late jazz musician and classical pianist Nina Simone including her rise to fame and relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson.
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September 21, 2016 at 01:58 AM
Wafer fin, badly chosen time period.
After the big hoo-ha about how bad this film is, in particular because
of Zoe Saldana's casting, I decided to give this movie a shot.
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.
Not at All Satisfying
I came in with expectations about this film. They weren't particularly
high but what I did expect was to a lesser degree the music and vocal
styling. Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone missed that mark completely. Unlike
Jamie Fox in Ray where he magnificently captured Ray Charles's vocal
patterns and musical style, you get none of this with Saldana's Nina.
In fact, it doesn't transport you away at all. It's an unpleasant look
into Nina's last years of her life, one that you do not wish to fully
examine. And then there is the makeup that was applied to Zoe Saldana.
It was not a visual look that was welcomed. I don't know if they were
trying to capture Nina's appearance but this too was flawed and I go
back to Jamie Fox role as Ray. Maybe Zoe Saldana was the wrong choice
although I do see her being credited as one of the producers along with
David Oyelowo who also has a role in this so maybe this was more of a
vanity thing because they did it and figured it was easier for her to
play the role. the other thing that bothered me was that they kept
jumping from one era to another without any consistency. It was a
visual headache to the story that just didn't fit. This was tough to
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I was not impressed by this film's portrayal of Nina's life, her music and her importance in history.
Nina Simone was a huge public figure in the black civil rights movement
and one of the most popular jazz musicians of all time. She remains to
this day very influential and unique. This film managed to capture none
of it. It decides to focus entirely on her romantic relationship with
her assistant during the last years of her life and - even though it
does address her mental health issues and her problems with showbiz -
it briefly skims over all the good and important influence she had over
culture and music. Zoe Saldana may have been able to pull off her
demeanour while in daily life, however her 'on stage' performances were
underwhelming. I don't have a problem with her doing her own singing
while impersonation an actual person, because a voice-over would
probably not have worked well, however, Zoe's auto-tuned performance
failed to capture the spirituality, strength and powerful presence that
Nina had. Obviously, no one can be as good a Nina as Nina was, but if I
didn't know who Nina Simone was before this movie, I certainly would
not have cared about her afterwards. Overall, I was not impressed by
this film's portrayal of Nina's life, her music and her importance in
history. If you want a better portrayal of Nina, watch What Happened,
Miss Simone (her documentary) or listen to her actual music.