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  • Writer's pictureStrictly Films

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Quick View, Grade: C+

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom takes place in a recording studio in Chicago 1927, featuring The Mother of the Blues Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and her band. A trumpeter in the band Levee (Chadwick Boseman) has a vision for the new wave for music, as he would like to contribute it to Ma Rainey’s style and form his own band in the future. Witness a one hectic dysfunctional day at a recording studio, as differences towards visions will collide.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom honestly reminds me of a lot like recent Netflix original film I watched, that was also based around a play The Boys in the Band. They both certainly have their strengths, but certainly have difficulty regarding substance value.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is gaining a lot of noise, as this is Chadwick Boseman’s last role due to his sudden passing. I’m extremely happy to say that the noise surrounding Chadwick’s Oscar campaign, is justified as this is honestly one of Chadwick Boseman’s best performances of his career... I’m giving the slight edge to when he played Jackie Robinson in 42, but it’s definitely up there. Chadwick is awesome delivering an authentic accent from this era, followed by delivering some crucial heart wrenching emotional scenes as well, especially the finale. I enjoyed the character Levee as well, though his decision making in the finale is heart breaking and is confusing to comprehend, however for the most part he was a charming delightful character that has a lot of potential for the future. It’ll be interesting to see how Chadwick will contend in this year’s award season, at least it’ll be earned out of respect for the craft, rather than just out of sympathy.

Along with Chadwick Boseman: The performances by the entire cast were top notch, best part of the entire film by far. Viola Davis playing Ma Rainey t’was pretty damn good, she was hardly recognizable in this role honestly. Davis and Boseman shared great chemistry, as their scenes together were tremendous as their vision differences collide right before our eyes. One flaw I want to point out regarding Davis’ performance is noticeable lip syncing... I found that element in her performance extremely disappointing. You should always give a valid attempt in trying to sing, even if the singer is extremely out of your league in that department, you earn some respect by even just trying and the fact Davis doesn’t even try is just disappointing.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom along with great performances, was elevated by lovely simple set pieces, solid composed score, and nice cinematography. Where my issues stand with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is simply substance wise... This story can be at times not interesting to me. Don’t get me wrong it has it’s strong sequences and moments most certainly. Whether it be hard hitting dramatic moments or that extremely funny scene involving a stuttering nephew. However where the film centers around characters having regular conversations, it either doesn’t interest me at all as it comes off dull or I have no connection to what these characters are talking about. I also didn’t care for the finale as well, though it’s a surprising unexpected moment in the film that’ll surely be remembered, however it just doesn’t sit well with me. I understand the character is having a somewhat disappointing day... But how it builds up motivation to do a horrific thing to a colleague and friend... Eh just doesn’t work for me. Just wish this film added more value towards the substance value, the film has much to offer however the substance in this just underwhelming.

Overall, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a perfectly average film. I recommend checking this one out, especially for the performances alone is worth watching and the length thankfully doesn’t over stay it’s welcome. - Mitch Smietana

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