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Parents' Guide to


By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Sometimes-edgy biopic of iconic musician doesn't dig deep.

Movie NR 2016 90 minutes
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Biopics have the imposing task of portraying the truth of a life while making sure the audience is fully immersed in the experience; this one has some high points but fails in this mission. Though Zaldana puts in an heroic effort at bringing the late, great, complicated Simone to life, the emphasis is on the "effort." NINA feels labored and self-conscious, as well as superficial. We see Nina the combative, Nina the lush, Nina the difficult, and, yes, Nina the great musician and singer and songwriter --- but these personas aren't connected by a distinct arc that would have made for a textured, multi-dimensional whole. And while Oyelowo is clearly talented, his Clifton is all Cliff's Notes -- no nuance.

And a word about the blackface controversy, which erupted when early footage of the movie was released and Saldana was shown wearing makeup and a prosthetic to look more like Simone: It's not only tone-deaf, it's distracting, doing harm to a movie already beleaguered by other issues. All of that said, there's no mistaking the power of the music, and it's here, albeit perhaps not as compelling with Saldana singing. Nina Simone was a wonder who can't be matched.

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