Awards Season Movie Review: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

ma rainey's black bottomUnbeknownst to his costars, Chadwick Boseman was undergoing cancer treatments while filming this movie, which would sadly prove to be his last before his death in 2020. He truly shines, giving a performance for the ages as trumpeter Levee, whose pain-fueled dreams lead him to clash with his bandmates and the legendary blues singer Ma Rainey, played by an equally stellar Viola Davis. Based on the play of the same name by August Wilson, the movie has trouble breaking out of its stagey origins, but is otherwise an engaging and absorbing look at the lives of a group of Black performers in microcosm during one afternoon in the 1920s. Both Ma and Levee are difficult characters to like, until the movie lets us in on the experiences that have led to their attitudes and demeanors. A sharply observed examination of the inner lives of marginalized people. ★★★★ – Sean Farrell

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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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