Nico, 1988 (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
Nico, 1988 is powered by a performance from Trine Dyrholm that is exceptional, and sadly, will never be considered for Oscar consideration. She is so good here.
Stories around the people who circled around Andy Warhol are often intriguing, and seeing Nico’s final years is a different look than we are used to having.
Pulls no punches, and yet, stays away from judging its subjects. Susanna Nicchiarelli’s directing and writing simply tell a story and let us consider what we are watching, instead of spoon-feeding us what she wants to feel.
In 2018, lots of people may have never heard of Nico, and thus, will have minimal interest in this.
Left completely out of the conversation is referencing Nico’s alleged racism. As a result, one must question whether we really are getting the entire story here.
Something of a downer, Nico struggled her last few years and Nico, 1988 may seem unrelenting to viewers with offering very little joy and happiness for 90-plus minutes.
At the heart of the biopic Nico, 1988 is a mesmerizing, immersive, transformative performance from Trine Dyrholm, who all but becomes Christa Päffgen, a/k/a Nico. Documenting the last two years or so of her life (c. 1986-88), writer/director Susanna Nicchiarelli offers us a sobering look at fading celebrity, insecurity, addiction, and the intertwining of narcissism and vulnerability that people do not often discuss.
Dyrholm’s commanding performance gives us Nico, the former Velvet Underground vocalist and Andy Warhol Factory discovery, in her late 40’s. She is on the road, finding plenty of venues to sing in, but few consumers of her brand. Her manager, Richard (John Gordon Sinclair), attempting to salvage what he can of Nico’s career, watches her wrestle with a heroin addiction, booze dependency, and a voice in decline. And she still moves forward, driven by the mere fact that stopping or slowing down could prove to be her demise.
Incorporating musical interludes, which features Dyrholm providing the vocals for Nico’s music, Nicchiarelli’s screenplay is intermittently combative and melancholy. Though we witness an emotional rollercoaster, the movie retains something of an even keel throughout. Interestingly, a lot happens here that the movie views in an almost nonchalant manner, mirroring the attitude of its main subject.
Scenes involving Nico and her son Ari (Sandor Funtek), who moves from, at the start of the film, a mental institution, to the road, the only “home” Nico truly ever knows, paints a picture of a mother trying to connect with a son who has lost the ability to know how to relate to the one parent in his life.
Shot in fits and starts of gloomy lighting, darkened clubs, and sparsely attended concert halls, Nico, 1988 looks and feels like a bleak, tragic movie. In some ways, that is a fair takeaway, as we see the performer muddle through interviews and bemoan all the difficulties in her life. Fleeting glimpses of a younger, blonder, more radiant (and even more decadent) lifestyle drift in and out like memories. However, Nicchiarelli recognizes that the past is the past and her subject, Nico, during this time period, is simply trying to survive.
Oddly silent about how Nico died in July 1988 (she suffered a biking accident and cerebral hemorrhage from the fall), the film offers us a woman chasing her dreams even after the likelihood and reality of them becoming a reality had long since fell away.
Nico, 1988 could take the easy route and judge its subject and the enabling culture that surrounded her in her last few years, however, NIcchairelli takes her film in a different direction. While the movie could use a bit of a lighter tone at times, to shake up the occasional mundanity of the narrative, Dyrholm’s performance is so authentic and believable, we never question anything Nico says or does.
At one point, over leftover spaghetti casserole in the kitchen of an acquaintance, Nico mentions she doesn’t care about music anymore. “I’ve been on the top and I’ve been on the bottom. Both places are empty.” In this sense, Nico, 1988 may capture more about what it means to be a celebrity than most films could ever hope to accomplish.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Trine Dyrholm, John Gordon Sinclair, Anamaria Marinca, Sandor Funtek, Thomas Trabacchi, Karina Fernandez, Calvin Demba, Francesco Colella.
Director: Susanna Nicchiarelli
Written by: Susanna Nicchiarelli
Release Date: August 1, 2018