Dear Lord why? Why did they make this and why did I watch it? After telling myself for months that I wasn’t going anywhere near this film, I caved last night and watched it. Or should I say, let it watch me? I put the film on a loop in an attempt to force myself to consume the offering in its entirety. It was a hard task but after several naps, I finally did it!
Let me rewind a bit and say this: IF this film was about a fictional character that only existed in the mind of a daydreamer, it wouldn’t have been so bad! However, this was supposed to be a representation of the life of the tormented musical genius Nina Simone and it failed to portray her accurately. I wept for the film that her biopic should have been. For how she should have been viewed. For the sides of her that were glazed over, skimmed and trimmed to fit Hollywood standards.
The film created a lot of negative buzz among fans of Ms. Simone’s work when they learned that producers had cast Afro-Latina actress Zoe Saldana to star in the film. Although Saldana is a pretty good actress (I loved her in Colombiana) this was a role that she should have gracefully declined. For starters, these two women look NOTHING alike, and yes, I know Diana Ross looks nothing like Billie Holiday (don’t come for Miss Ross because I’m a diehard STAN) but in my opinion “Lady Sings the Blues” at least did justice to her life, her struggles and to her music. “Nina” aimed at success and missed it by a mile.
In order to transform Ms. Saldana into the Afrocentric Nina Simone, Saldana had to wear a prosthetic nose, teeth and some questionable body makeup. The endeavor proved to be fatal for the film with would-be moviegoers opting out of warching the film based on the casting and makeup alone. While I will admit the makeup is HORRIBLE, what rubbed me wrong the most was Saldana’s struggle to continue speaking in a lower register throughout the film. For singing purposes it worked but listening to her speak was like listening to a child try and imitate a parent over the phone when a teacher calls. Totally unbelievable.
There are tons of actresses who could have given this role so much more life without the need for additives. My personal favorite is Uzo Aduba. Casting Uzo would have saved the production company money on makeup and ditched the need for the prosthetic nose. Sure they would have had to close her gap but it still would have been cheaper than paying to give someone an overbite they never had. Not to mention Uzo is a phenomenal actress who sings from the heart and has the capability to portray tormented characters with ease.
Have you seen this film? What are your thoughts? Do you feel like it let true fans down or did they do Nina Simone justice? If you could recast this film who would you choose? Let’s talk about “Nina” in the comments below!