Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ★★★★½

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is how you make a captivating biopic while powerfully delivering a message. Depicting a studio recording session compromised by personality clashes, racist undertone and personal demons, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom manages to offer both glimpses into Ma Rainey's life, and a taste of the racial climate back in her days. Heavy with rapid-firey dialogues, largely thanks to its original form as a stage play, it's highly effective in its character building and offers intense, edge-of-your-seat group dynamics. The cast ensemble was simply phenomenal, led by two Oscar hopefuls next year, Viola Davis, playing a sassy, rebellious lesbian music icon, and Chadwick Boseman, whose sudden passing only gives his character, an ambitious, emotionally tormented player, a tragic glow.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is ultimately a movie about race in America, where racial politics is revealed either through the conversations from the band players, or the way the black characters are mishandled. What's impressive is the emotional impacts these heartfelt moments have, especially the tearjerking scene where Boseman's character questions God in tears. In those backwards dark ages, American dream was a white and white only concept, no matter you were as established as Ma Rainey, or just a nameless trumpeter, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom knows, and acknowledges that perfectly. Highly recommended.

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