Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ★★★½

I mean, of course, the main attraction here is the absolutely gorgeous performance from Chadwick Boseman. He completely overshadows everything else going on in the film - including Viola Davis, who herself is magnificent.

But can a great performance (or performances) alone make a great film?

No. There is a lot more to like here, though. George Wolfe's direction is fluid and kinetic and occasionally does help the film to escape the stage. The art direction and costumes and the sound design are also just fantastic. The problem remains, however, that this is a film based on a play.

Now, this isn't a diss on plays. Plays are great, and I'm sure this is a great play, but film is a different art form. And as everyone involved in this has a background in theatre (it is a film based on a play, adapted by a different playwright, directed by a theatre director, and starring a theatre star), there isn't enough to distract from that theatricality. Chadwick Boseman delivers 2 monologues (both of which probably work well on stage), and each time the film grinds to a complete halt. This make them the low points of the film, even though they are meant to be the emotional heart... Something like this needs a real auteur, a real moving, energetic, distinctive directorial voice to make it into a film, and not just a filmed play.

So, I do much prefer it to the dire One Night in Miami, and I did very much like it, especially Chadwick, but is it one of the best films of the year? Well no, it's not enough of a film to be.

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