A review of the soulful film ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’

Michelle Cullen

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom directed by George C. Wolfe, is a film based in 1920’s Chicago. It follows a blue’s band as they gather in a recording studio and tensions soon rise.

The film deals with issues such as religion, race, art, and the exploitation of black recording artists by white producers in the 1920s.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom which was originally played on stage in 1984 transfers seamlessly onto the big screen. The onstage theatre past of the film peeks through the cracks with its long monologues that are powerfully performed by the cast.

Each member of the blues band recounts their own and others experiences with racism and injustice with the true emotional and psychological impacts of these events becoming evident in Levee’s (Boseman) short temper.

This movie is a display of amazing and powerful acting by the late Chadwick Boseman. Boseman even went as far as to master the trumpet for his role as Levee showing the actor’s dedication to his craft.

The film is dedicated to Boseman “in celebration of his artistry and heart” and could see him winning a posthumous Oscar nomination for best actor for his role as Levee.

The plot follows Levee as he shares his aspirations to form his own band and create his own music as he desperately tries to find his way out from the shadows of Ma Rainey.

Viola Davis who plays Ma Rainey ‘The Mother of Blues’ is sensational in this film and does an excellent job of portraying the legendary blues singer Ma Rainey, as she shows the power and determination it takes to be a successful black woman in the music industry in the 1920s.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is littered throughout with emotionally intense scenes, several in which characters recall racist terror that they and other black people have experienced.

Throughout the film tensions progressively rise as the personal experiences of Levee reveal the reason he is emotionally charged and passionate about making it in the blues world.

This building tension keeps the audience on the edge of their seat and makes for an exciting watch as we see characters develop and change as their backgrounds are revealed.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom can be found on Netflix and is definitely a must-see.

Michelle Cullen

Image credit: Netflix

Note: This article was reuploaded on 26/03/2021 due to a fault with The College View website.