This review is brought to you by Kathy Kaiser
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM – Rated R – 1 hr. 34 mins.
Released on NETFLIX and Showing at the Plaza Frontenac Landmark Theatre
DIRECTOR: George C. Wolfe
WRITERS: Based on the play by August Wilson / Screenplay by Ruben Santiago-Hudson
STARRING: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, Jeremy Shamos, Michael Potts, Taylour Paige, Dusan Brown and Jonny Coyne
Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s play, we meet Blues singer extraordinaire Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) as she heads to Chicago – Circa 1920’s – to a white owned recording studio, as a way to share her music with the masses, that usually come to see her perform.
As her Band warms up, and awaits her arrival, it seems that trumpet player Levee (Chadwick Boseman), isn’t about to wait around for Ma to show up, as he has his own ambitions as a musician, and performer too, which seem to be clouding his sensibilities, including his infatuation with Ma’s girlfriend, Ms. Dussie Mae (Taylour Paige. With Levee’s mouth running off in every direction, and his flirting and carry on with Ms. Dussie being a problem too, the other band members decide to share some of their trials and tribulations of life too, as the bonding between bandmembers begins. But, even as their pasts come creeping into their present conversation, and situation, it seems that they all try to remain steadfast on trying to keep Levee from getting canned from the band, as he continues to aggravate, and agitate, Ma every chance he gets.
And to make matters worse, Ma’s cracker Manager, and the cracker Studio exec too, don’t really understand who they are dealing with, as Ma is the reigning “Mother of the Blues” you know, and what Ma wants, Ma will get, one way or another…
I give MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM a rating of 4 out of 5 Stars! Viola Davis gives another Oscar worthy performance channeling Blues legendary songstress, Ma Rainey! She is absolutely superb in this role, in every way, from here raspy vocals to all the extra weight she gained just to play the role. Viola transformed herself into the 20’s legendary black star at every turn, becoming someone that at times, you may not like too much, but when it’s all said and done, no one is going to not give Ma the respect she deserves, she will make sure of that! And then once you put Ms. Davis up against her co-star this time around, the legendary Black Panther himself, SAG award winner Chadwick Boseman, let’s just say, all bets are off on whose performance this time around is going to win on blowing your socks off! Watching Boseman perform as the tormented, yet boisterous, pig-headed and arrogant fool trumpet player Levee, was a sight to behold. As, even with his health issues, which by his very skinny frame are quite apparent, now that we know that he was facing down Cancer throughout this film, Boseman still manages to “bring it” to his performance this time around, just like he did in all the other outstanding performances he accomplished throughout his career, as I wonder too, how many exceptional performances we were robbed of viewing, since he was taken from us far too soon. I must also share with you too at this juncture, that even though I did look forward to seeing Davis and Boseman’s performances, I was also wondering if the context of the film – 1920’s Blues Entertainer, on the quest to climb the ladder of fame, on her own terms – was going to play out as a fabulous storyline and film, and believe me when I tell you that it soooo did, as you too will become entranced in this particular day of Ma Rainey’s life (yep, the whole film is one day in this woman’s illustrious career) and that you will find yourself wanting to follow Ma through many more days of her freewheeling life, as the songstress she is, as you experience her bold, distinctive, and sometimes very brash demeanor, in order to make her life, and her career play out, exactly how she wants it to, and no other way…