Cynthia Mort's ambitious glossy biopic of Nina Simone is far too short at 90 minutes. The costumes are absolutely outstanding and if for that alone, they give the viewer an insight into the life of this legend which was instrumental to music and Civil Rights in the 60's.
The beginning starts off showing how the child version of Nina stands up at her school against the Southern mentality where her parents are forced because of race to sit in the back of the auditorium at a piano recital. We see from the start that here is a female who stands up against the status quo. However throughout the movie, this theme gets lost and Nina Simone just becomes sort of an angry person as she has a nervous breakdown and issues with alcohol. Not her finest moments and one has to wonder why that is the subject matter focused on for the purpose of the film.
Much has been said about Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone as she does not carry of the same facial features whatsoever and being of Dominican heritage, her skin is naturally lighter so black face is used which comes off as very cheesy. However as Saldana's background is in ballet dance, she is able to capture the fluidity and style of Simone as seen in the credits clip where she is dancing in almost a belly dance style. Saldana also sings Simone's songs throughout the movie and has a great voice, but her style comes off prettier and not the deep sound of the famous star which does seem the most important.
From an actor's standpoint, I have to admire Saldana's dedication to pulling off the different shades of Nina Simone in manner and dialect. For that feat alone, I give my high rating of this film.
Kind of short version of Nina's life and much seems to be glossed over in order to make a story out of the film. Good introduction to the songs that made Simone great.
I question the timeline of her conversation with Richard Pryor (Mike Epps) as she is talking with him by telephone and he already has MS. I wasn't really aware at any time that this movie was set in the 90's as it seems to jump around a lot.
David Owelyo of Selma fame is Simone's caretaker eventually becoming her manager and inspiring her to get back to her singing career.
I was not aware that Nina Simone went to Julliard. An incredible feat for anyone and the movie made it clear that she was forced into singing in clubs because she was unable to follow a professional piano career. Just such a talented artist and this story really only briefly touches on her spirit.