Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ★★★★

"They don't care nothing about me. All they want is my voice. Well, I done learned that they gone treat me how I wanna be treated, no matter how much it hurt em' " - Ma Rainey

It’s 1927 Chicago, we analyse what it means to be Black and talented in a still exploitative America that is just fresh off the aftermath of slavery. 

Ma Rainey, the established and renowned Mother of Blues knows what she wants albeit Proud and Diva-esque, but with reason. And then you have Levee, an aspiring, eager and talented horn-player, who is a powder keg waiting to blow. These two main characters manifest a power struggle tug-of-war over the course of this film that was so tangible and intense, I found it hard to look away from their electrifying performances. 

Most of the film happens in one location, and the Play-like elements are still noticeable, but makes the entire film very intimate and succinct in the messages it tries to convey. Gorgeous costumes. Beautiful 1920’s atmosphere and production designs. Even the cinematography is convincingly immersive. The film even though is about music, never tries to be a musical, which is perfect. The songs used are just right, not too long, not too short. 

Thanks to a very compelling narrative, both Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis disappear into their roles. Chadwick especially, as he gives some arrestingly heart-wrenching monologues that arguably puts him at the top of the Oscar contentions. He even has more screen time than Viola, which says a lot. Even Levee’s quote I leave here, mirrors Chadwick’s real life struggles with cancer that no one knew about. We miss you King T’Challa.

"Cos you don't know nothing about me, you don't know Levee." - Levee

Best of 2020

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