‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ movie review
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
The end of the film is like a punch in the face.
Chadwick Boseman is one of the most important African American actors in modern history. He played famous African Americans like Jackie Robinson and James Brown in biopics and also played as the Black Panther in the Avengers film series. As he was filming Black Panther, he was just diagnosed with stomach cancer and many people didn’t know about his condition until he died last summer.
While Black Panther 2 is yet to be released, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom would be the last film that he completed filming. Academy Award winner Viola Davis’ character is the main character in the film, but it feels more like Boseman’s character is the main character. The film—based on a play by August Wilson—shows his great acting style.
In 1927, Ma Rainey (Davis) is “the Mother of the Blues” and her band tours around the country. While the northern part of the country begins to be more inclusive, she and her band are in Chicago doing a recording session. Her band arrives at the studio first with Levee (Boseman) arriving late and Ma Rainey arriving after with her daughter and nephew. Levee, who plays the trumpet, has ideas that will give the people what they want, though the rest of his band mates do not agree with his proposals. In the film’s one hour and 30 minutes running time, the viewer experiences the downfall of a blues ensemble.
The first 30 minutes is the band rehearsing while they are waiting for Ma Rainey. Ma Rainey was barely seen during the entire film, but we see a lot of Levee doing monologues. Both Davis and Boseman were unrecognizable, especially with Ma Rainey and her makeup.
Boseman looked frail as though he was losing weight for the role. He was putting himself in the blues scene in the 1920s and was optimistic portraying Levee. Davis also had a great singing voice in the film. Ma Rainey’s character was like a diva because she likes to perform her songs the old way, and drinks three bottles of Coca-Cola before performing.
The film also talks about musicians presenting their music how they envisioned it and new musicians trying to get their work out and create new styles of music. The end of the film is like a punch in the face. There were zoom-ins throughout the film, though I am not sure if they were actual or digital zoom ins.
Boseman is probably going to win an Academy Award for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and before that I was thinking that he was going to win one for Black Panther 2. Despite that he could have been in more films, this might be his best acting in his entire career. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is available now on Netflix.