Mitchell Cronk’s review published on Letterboxd:
2020 Ranked - HERE
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the second high-profile adaptation of an August Wilson play in recent years, is a true acting showcase with a fantastic script but as a film didn’t reach the heights I was hoping it would. The prime negative is the same one I had with Fences, this simply just feels like a play and while it’s a really good straight-up adaptation, it’s missing that filmic factor. The film is all dialogue and while it was very well written, it feels lifted from the stage production without many alterations and for me personally it was too obvious at some points. That being said though, there is some powerful stuff going on in this film and the acting is some of the best I’ve seen this year. I’ll start with the supporting cast, which all turned in wonderful performances, especially Colman Domingo who has proven himself to be a stellar actor and I think he’s severely underrated. Viola Davis as Ma Rainey is incredible, the transformation works well and is never distracting, she’s one of the best actresses working today and this role proves it. The real standout though is Chadwick Boseman, who gives the best performance of his career in what I consider to be the true lead role of the entire film. It’s bittersweet to see him knowing it’s his final role but he’s the best part of the movie and it’s not even close for me, I hope he wins the Oscar because he truly deserves it. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a very good film, I think it’s elevated by the acting and while it’s not necessarily my type of film, I enjoyed it immensely. It’s not something I would have the urge to rewatch again but I’m very happy I saw it, it’s worth at least one watch even if just to see Boseman’s final brilliant performance.