Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ★★★½

You know what to do.

A showstopper in two ways, one more negative than positive. We should start with the former. So yeah, this is the final performance from Chadwick Boseman. His turn as Levee is very good, but you probably didn't need me to tell you that. Unless you live under a rock, if you've so much as touched movies in recent times, you know his skills as a performer. His performance is theater to the max, a flow of nuance that makes way for appropriate outbursts, and it all translates to the screen well. I would personally state that I think his work as Stormin' Norman in Da 5 Bloods I connected with much more, but if he doesn't get award recognition for at least one of these performances, then, I mean, I wouldn't know what to tell you. This said, I wish I could call Boseman as Levee fulfilling, that it's the swan song he deserves, but it really isn't. I can't sugarcoat it, he was just taken from us too soon, gone well before his prime. It's an absolute shame, and though it can be hard to simply be appreciative of what he left for us in his short time as a performer, there's that voice in the back of my head that wishes we could have seen so much more. Alright, let's get a little more positive. This is a good flick. It's showstopping in its atmosphere and its portrayal of its music. Chicago here reminds me of paintings I love to look at whenever I go to the Art Institute in the city. It's worn down, sunny enough to burn you, but it's in its own way gorgeous. Every bit of jazz spit out during the feature has soul, every note played, every lyric sung by Ma, it's damn good. It makes what happens to said music in the finale all the more tragic and hurtful. Ma Rainey as a character, how August Wilson and Ruben Santiago-Hudson wrote her, as well as how Viola Davis plays her, ends up being indicative of how the movie functions as a whole. If handled by weaker people, it could come off like a diva, something/someone that thinks it's a whole lot better than it is. In reality, it's earned what it thinks of itself, it's not going to apologize for anything, and when it asks for something, not only is it not unreasonable, it's just a damn shame it's so hard to get its desires to become a reality. Life shouldn't just be enjoyed, it should be improved, better, not just for yourself, but for everyone you care about.


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