Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ★★★★

“Chadwick Boseman’s last film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a powerful drama and detailed invention. Vibrant and respectful, Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom leaves you wanting more.”


Based on a stage show, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is mostly a fictional story about real-life characters, in this case, a band. Netflix’s feature is noted as the last Chadwick Boseman film, which was released posthumously and contains one of the best performances he did in his short but solid career. The film is about trailblazing and rises tensions that occurred during the band’s recording session in a studio in Chicago during 1927. Viola Davis plays Ma Rainey while Boseman plays Levee the outlier and misfit of the band. The film is soaked in play-like monologues and limited sets and framing. It works so well. It is such a dialogue-heavy movie that it could run the risk of being a little bit slow but it is just that well-acted and the dynamics and topics are so well thought out that you find time flying by while watching. The characters don’t really have development but they are pretty 3 dimensional with all the backstory, exposition, and dialogues they provide. This is all backed up by the acting. For the most part, everyone in this movie hits it out of the park. I really love Colman Domingo and he really shines in this film. He just has a charm that draws you to any character that he plays. Chadwick was really great too. His emotional scenes really sweep the rug out from under your feet and I really wasn't expecting him to be able to do that he was really great. And Viola Davis is just fantastic. I love how she just dives headfirst into her characters and just lives in them. It reads so well on screen. She just embodies the role even down to the way she walks is just done to perfection. Like August Wilson’s play-based movie Fences, Mai Rainey’s Black Bottom is not satisfying as a movie, but as a record of a powerful play. The film is based on two locations, a recording studio and the place where the band practices. However, the production design is very strong and the costumes to go with it make it feel like 1900. The film is far from being perfect, the main problem with the film is that it does feel more like a play than the actual movie. Some plays do not fully translate onto the big screen and this story feels like it belongs more towards the theatre than a cinema. Overall, the film is not really satisfying and pretty hard to watch, the short runtime is welcomed while the star power and their talents deliver. It is surely one of the best releases of the year.

Bonus
Chadwick Boseman. Cast. Production designs. Powerful Screenplay.