Director: George C. Wolfe
Writers: Ruben Santiago-Hudson, August Wilson
Staring: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman
Streaming: Netflix
Release Date: December 18, 2020

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was more than I expected and I have not stopped thinking about it since I saw it. Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman both give award worthy roles in a movie that delivers spunk, a message, and entertainment.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom takes place all in one day at the recording session where the main turbulence is between the fading star Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and the young blissfully ignorant Levee (Chadwick Bosemen). Their preferences in the style of music for the song “Black Bottom” is paralleled preference in dealing with the white producers who are handling them on this singular day.

No bones about it, this is the best acting that Boseman has ever done. Hands down, he steals the show. What makes his portrayal of Levee different from any other role Boseman has taken is that Levee has faults. He is not an angelic character. He is known for T’Challa; a fearless leader. He has played Jackson Robinson and was literally a god-like to figures to his friends as Stormin’ Nomran in Da 5 Bloods (2020). It is crazy that his last movie role is the one with a character most can identify with on a human level. He has his desires, hopes and dreams dashed, and he lashes out.

Viola Davis. She just hasn’t missed recently. Loved her in Widows (2018), she was awarded for her performance in Fences (2016) and in terms of blockbuster, she was arguably the best part of the bleak Suicide Squad (2016). Davis transforms in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom into the repulsive but propulsive Ma Rainey. She is rude beyond believe, but she has to be for the sake of protecting her own pride. Ma Rainey knows that the only reason she is being treated “well” by the producers is because of her skill and not who she is. Ma Rainey is such an interesting character because she is naturally unlikable, but the reason for her bitterness is understandable.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is quick, its loud, its propulsive. It has grown on me as I have continued to think about it.

  • I don’t want anyone saying that any award Boseman gets is because of his passing. He deserves any recognition he gets for this award.
  • The scene where Levee breaks through the door only to find himself entrapped in a prison and the only thing to look at…a ceiling that ever ends and that he can never reach. Hard not to get goosebumps when that seen ends
  • Yes, the ending did shock me. Did not see Levee doing that action.
  • What artist is most like Ma Rainey now in terms of reaching for straws and relevance.

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)


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