Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ★★★½

August Wilson is the finest American playwright since Tennessee Williams. He wrote ten plays in his American Cycle and Viola Davis has performed in four of them on the stage. To date she’s turned in two Oscar-worthy performances in film adaptations. I can think of no more better way for Netflix to spend our monthly subscription fees than to bring us a new Viola Davis–August Wilson adaption and collect another Oscar nomination every couple of years. This is done with Fast and Furious, and one of these would pay for this whole project.

Chadwick Boseman deserves an In Memoriam Oscar but Viola Davis is reason to watch this movie. Her Ma Rainey is a life force. We see in her the engine of sorrow and life that drives the blues. She understands how the game is played, and that it’s rigged, but in those brief moments when she’s occasionally in control, she’s going to leverage her temporary power.

“The White man only cares about the voice. Once he gets that in the record he forgets about you.”

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