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REVIEW: “Nina”Starring Zoe Saldana Just Not Ready

[yasr_overall_rating size=”small”]  Opens Friday April 22


I have to admit, I didn’t want to see the second Nina movie. Not necessarily because of the makeup controversy and/or the choice to use Zoe Saldana, who is a mixed race Puerto Rican and Dominican woman (to play the extremely unapologetic and afrocentric Nina Simone).  If anything, from my perspective, that would have made me want to see it more to see how Saldana would have held up against the backlash.

The reason I didn’t want to see it was because the first one on Netflix, was just so damn good. I watched it at least 4 times. Simone’s daughter, Lisa Celeste Stroud and her team, did an excellent job of capturing Nina’s pain and angst against the backdrop of a misguided yet successful career as a singer instead of the concert pianist that she actually wanted to be. The complex life of a troubled singer is paramount. It is also often tragic when one’s success is driven by their innate ability to connect to their audience with their pain, sadness, joy and frustration. What happens when the music stops? Nina Simone continued to reinvent herself in various musical milieu accept the one that she really desired. She was so close but yet so far. 

There was no way a feature film could even come close to being as good as the Netflix film but I reluctantly went to see it anyway and I was, correct. I will admit, Zoe’s makeup job was just too off-putting and very poorly done. It was really hard to see the quality of the film because it was difficult to move past the fact that she looked like she stopped by a construction site after a heavy rainfall and tripped into a thick pool of red mud. Even still,  I can’t help but to wonder if ANYONE who played the part would have been able to pull it off after the brilliant Netflix movie even Mary J Blige.

The move is set primarily during the last 8 years of Nina’s life living in Paris. She’s performing overseas with a now tarnished reputation coupled with alcoholism and loneliness in a dark house with a gay manager and former male nurse that she has a crush on. The role is played very well by David Oyelowo.

In the movie, Nina prefers to be isolated instead of recognized after the singer loses everything but she needs to make money and she is ignoring her mental and phsical illnesses. This was pretty much where the Netflix film left off. Simone who would now be about 86 had she lived, continued to ignore warnings from her doctor to take care of a cancer diagnosis before it progressed to the next stages which it eventually does.  The most memorble things about the movie overall were Saldana’s singing voice which is actually quite good and Mike Epps unexplained appearance as Richard Pryor which was dead on yet unnecessary for this movie. Saldana made a concerted effort and her acting, while impressive, might be forever lost in the controversy surrounding her in the role that was so far removed from her history, race or appearance that there is no coming back.

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