Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ★★★★

An incredibly charged adaptation of August Wilson’s Tony Award Winning 1984 play of the same name. I loved how the direction, cinematography, and blocking captures the essence of a stage play while still being cinematic. You felt like you were watching a private play, all to yourself. I LOVE stories that take place in a single day, in a single location, and this utilized its time and space. You could feel the heat, smell the sweaty, dank basement. The tensions were palpable. 

Of course that’s all thanks to a really tremendous cast. This movie is 99% dialogue, and if you don’t have organic actors, this ain’t gonna work - and hoo boy did they have some nuanced actors. Every single performance here is so genuine and honest, delivering the lines with personality and spontaneity. 

Chadwick. My god. You had me in tears during the monologue where you talked about your mother. Did you see those real tears?? Did you see the restraint?? It wasn’t over the top, it wasn’t melodramatic. No sir. That was a real person, living through real trauma, and trying to hold back his emotions - until he couldn’t anymore and the tears just poured. That’s some award winning acting right there. 

And Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Viola Davis. Where is she? That’s Viola?! Nah, that’s MA RAINEY! A total transformation. A chameleon performance. So spectacular. The best performance of the year for me, hands down. 

A really great film! An “actor’s” film. An important film, about generational anger and oppression. A must see. 


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