Michael Vazquez’s review published on Letterboxd:
I don’t want to say goodbye to Chadwick, i’m not ready 😔😭. So, let me start with Viola first.
Viola Davis is electrifying here as advertised and as is always the case. As a matter of fact, this is her career-best performance IMO because i’ve never seen this side of her before. It’s unlike any role we’ve seen her play before. Going with a bodysuit, gold teeth, a horsehair wig & full of makeup. She completely disappears into the role as Ma and just completely kills it. She’s funny, brash, relentless, motherly & wounded. It’s such a towering performance from Davis that’ll likely earn her 2nd Oscar come next year, she’s freaking awesome in this.
The ensemble cast is great. Including reliable vets such as Colman Domingo (my dude needs to get nominated for his powerful performance in that Euphoria Part 1 special from the SAGs & Emmys) & Glynn Turman (i’m so happy that Clarence Royce had an excellent year with this, The Way Back & Fargo). The makeup, costume design & writing (since it’s a dialogue-driven movie anyways) are freaking on point. They’re locks for sure to get Oscar nominations. I also really dug Bradford Marsalis’ score, I hope he gets nominated. It’s a great score.
Chadwick, you’re up buddy. To those who fear that if he wins the posthumous Oscar, they’ll simply gift him the award because of his death not because of his performance. You’re very wrong. It’s Heath Ledger all over again. He completely pours his heart and soul into this role. It’s his career-best performance. Chadwick monologues (he has plenty of them in this) are completely jaw-breaking stuff, he destroys the crap out of these monologues especially the “Your God” one really messed me up. I still have to see Anthony Hopkins in The Father & a few other male lead contenders but for right now, Chadwick is my frontrunner for for Best Actor. I almost didn’t want to watch this movie because I just didn’t want to say goodbye to him, I would get emotional.
But i’m glad this movie was dialogue-driven & only about a band trying to record their music at a Chicago studio in the 1920s. Yes, it tackles on some themes of race. Yes, there’s a very violent scene near the end (I won’t spoil it). Yes, the ending is messed up and I just don’t want to talk about the terrible things that happened in those years and decades. But despite all that, the whole movie is spent in one location and the first half, the tone of was that it was actually funny, characters making jokes, the music, etc. Yes, Levee was messed up but the way Chadwick embodied him with some of the positivity playing him with hope, humor, that smile & confidence. I didn’t get emotional seeing him throughout (until the credits rolled of course, I put my head down on my two hands just softly saying “Oh Chadwick.” And then a couple tears started to fall down), I felt happy seeing him give it his all.
It’s a wonderful movie. I can’t ignore George C. Wolfe. I have to give him credit as well. He did a great job as well behind the camera. But yeah, Davis & Boseman powerful electrifying performances just helps boost this well-done movie about music.