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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) – Movie Review: Is it worth watching?

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) – Movie Review

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a 2020 American drama film that is based on the play written by August Wilson. The film is directed by George C. Wolfe and written by Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

The film is produced by Denzel Washington, Todd Black, and Dany Wolf. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is streaming on Netflix from 18th December 2020 after a theatrical release on November 25, 2020.

About Ma Rainey

Before telling you about the film, let me quickly introduce Ma Rainey to you all. So, Ma Rainey was one of the earliest African-American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of blues singers to record. Ma went on to become one of the most influential figures in the country. She had been performing vaudeville, minstrel, and cabaret on the stage since her teenage years. Some of her more notable work includes “Jelly Bean Blues”, “Moonshine Blues”, “Bad Luck Blues”, and “Prove It on Me”.

Well, the film does not narrate the true story of Ma. The events shown in this film are fictitious and are based on the play written by August Wilson. The film also deals with the sensitive subject, a hitch in mankind i.e. Racism. The stories of the period that looked down upon the blacks have always been painful to watch or listen to. This film showcases that side of society. The film starts off on a slow note, but soon the darker phase that the African-Americans had to face then has been shown.

Cast: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman (Final on-screen appearance), Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, and Michael Potts.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Plot

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Set in 1927, the film narrates the story of Ma Rainey who reaches a music studio in Chicago where her band will be rehearsing for a recording. This setting will lead the band to experience tensions and something more.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Direction

The film is directed by George C. Wolfe. I felt the direction could have been better with some interesting events. The painful plight of the blacks and their helplessness is portrayed well. He has somehow been successful in getting across the emotional scenes. But this film has a simple story and fails to keep the audience glued to the screen.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Acting

Chadwick Boseman

Watching Chadwick Boseman in this film is overwhelming. He plays the character of Levee, an ambitious horn player for Ma. In his final film appearance, he has given a flawless performance like he always did. He makes you laugh, cry, and what not! Mostly, you’re going to cry. The legend passed very soon and you definitely start missing this wonderful actor after watching this film. 

Viola Davis

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Viola Davis plays the character of Ma Rainey and is unmatchable in this film. The fearless and savage attitude in her performance is brilliant.

Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, and Michael Potts who are supporting actors have given impeccable performances.
So, this film definitely has powerful performances throughout.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Music and Cinematography

The entire film relies on music. Of course, it has to be. After all, the “Legacy is brought to screen”. So yeah, the music composed by Branford Marsalis is really good and there is no much to add to this.

The natural and dusky location that has been shown in this film is something very appreciable. The film has limited its locations in that case but whatever they’ve done in so little is very good.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Conclusion

The film is dauntless, aspiring, and enthralling just like the characters in the movie. The fictional story has been very successful in making use of the facts to impart the cruel reality. This is going to be an excellent watch if you are looking for something intense and if you are someone who appreciates good music.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Ratings

Direction – 2.5/5

Acting – 4/5

Background score – 3.5/5

Overall rating – 7.5/10

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