Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Movie Review

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Movie Review
The last time Viola Davis starred in an adaptation of an August Wilson play, she won an Oscar (for Best Supporting Actress in "Fences"). Her latest stage-to-screen Wilson adaptation, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," could have the same effect and put her right back on the Oscar stage (or on a Zoom in her living room, who's to say at this point?) Regardless, Davis is given a chance to sink her teeth into another rich and commanding role, as the titular character and woman known as the "Mother of Blues."

Like most play adaptations, the movie is often a vehicle for the actors to take on roles inhabited by different performers and make it their own. What more can we possibly say about Davis? She is one of the finest actors to ever grace the screen, projecting vulnerability and confidence in equal doses. When Davis walks into the room as Ma Rainey, you sit up straight and take notice. She demands your attention, and Davis' presence earns it with a simple glance.
What Davis' performance also shows is her generosity as an actor. For playing the title role, one would assume Davis is in more of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" than she is. The late Chadwick Boseman, in his final performance, seems to be more front-and-center than anyone else. After years of working her way to the top of the marquee, it's clear Davis relishes in sparring with Boseman and allowing his performance to share her spotlight.

The movie is largely set in a recording studio, where Ma Rainey and her band gather to record the album that gives the movie its name. Things don't go as smoothly as her producers would hope, and they don't go as smoothly as Ma Rainey would hope. She is countered by her ambitious trumpeter Levee (Boseman), who has a vision for himself outside of Ma Rainey's studio. Davis and Boseman are given plenty of entertaining moments to play off each other.

It's not a surprise but it is worth repeating just how good Davis and Boseman are in their roles. When Ma Rainey refuses to start recording until she is given a Coca-Cola, it's easy to bemoan how difficult she is being. Davis knows Ma Rainey's story and her place in the music business and it shows in every ounce of her performance. The Coca-Cola isn't about making demands, it's about showing her worth. The subtle balance is conveyed through Davis' performance. Boseman gets the big, flashy moments to deliver Wilson's dialogue in showstopping monologues. Levee is so full of hope for his future, it adds an extra bittersweet layer underneath Boseman's already wonderful performance (Boseman died from cancer at age 43 this year).

Director George C. Wolfe, who has directed a variety of Broadway shows and films, keeps things lively and engaging for 94 minutes, delivering flashy performances from the stage, and capturing the sweaty and long hours of recording in the booth. The screenplay, by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, doesn't always capture a narrative momentum, but adapting someone as profound and revered as Wilson can be no easy task. Even so, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" uses its confined space effectively, without ever fully feeling like we are watching a filmed play.

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" on Netflix started Dec. 18
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Movie Review Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Movie Review Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Sunday, December 20, 2020 Rating: 5

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