Lisa Simone Kelly, Nina Simone's daughter, disavowed the project on grounds it was a dishonest look at her mother's life, particularly in the storyline involving a turbulent romantic relationship between Nina and Clifton Henderson (in real life, Henderson was gay and was Nina's confidant but never her lover). As a result, Simone's family was not consulted during the film's production. While the family said publicly they didn't have any personal issues with Saldana, they didn't agree with her casting because Nina Simone had much darker skin than Saldana and they felt the choice was an attempt to erase what Nina Simone herself called "essential blackness" from the movie. See more »
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.
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