Although constructed as an ensemble, Viola Davis’ twist as the protagonist – the “Mother of the Blues” of the 1920s – and Bozeman as her ambitious thrombologist stand out, reflecting how the racial inequality of the era turns into a weakly disguised anger. . In this sense, the lessons of the film resonate in the present in ways that are both clearly intended and more appropriate in the light of recent events.
Directed by George W. Wolfe from an adaptation written by Ruben Santiago-Hudson (and accounted for by Denzel Washington among producers), the action takes place almost entirely in a dirty recording studio in Chicago. Ma and her group made the pilgrimage from Georgia to record, but tensions within the group, as well as between Ma and her manager (Jeremy Chamos), rise below the surface and sometimes boil over.
In addition, Livy attracts Ma’s anger in many ways after she turns her gaze to her friend (“Taylor Page” from “Hit the Floor”). He also longs to have his own band, which forces him to be careful with the white manager and producer, despite his painful past, which he tells in fierce detail.
As for Ma, she arrives characteristically late, continuing as a typical show business diva, demanding her three Coca-Cola before singing a note, and repeatedly threatening to cancel the entire session and retreat south.
After a while, the basics of this fighting stance became clear, reflecting her acknowledgment that those who wanted to gain from her talent “didn’t care about me. All they wanted was my vote.”
Wolfe does what he can to open the presentation, but the long monologues and jokes of the rat make the root of the stage almost impossible to shed. Fortunately, Davis and Bosman put on powerful performances, throwing themselves against others – especially in Levy’s case, due to limitations on where and how he can direct his anger.
While The Black Panther remains a huge part of Boseman’s legacy, his screaming, fast-paced role here – using music as a means of seduction – demonstrates its exceptional range and, at least as you watch, almost erases considerations beyond a small feat.
Davis, on the other hand, dips his teeth into another larger-than-life character, as only she can, and one complicating factor is that her relatively limited screen time makes it difficult to categorize the meaty role in terms of rewards. By the way, the film is a kind of collection, as she previously participated with Washington in the adaptation of Wilson’s “Fences”.
After a little over 90 minutes, “Ma Rainey” – like any cunning performer – does not overdo it with welcome or risk stretching the room over its weight. Rather, thanks to his potential customers, he pulls out a few moments to stop before taking the last well-deserved call.
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” will receive a limited theatrical release on November 25 and premiere on December 18 on Netflix.