MOVIE REVIEW: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom


Throughout this film I was constantly asking myself two things: “How is it possible that Chadwick Boseman’s last role is his best?” and “How is it possible that Viola Davis keeps giving a better performance than her last notable one?”

Denzel Washington returns (this time as producer) in this second adaptation of one of August Wilson’s world-renowned plays known as “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

The film stars Viola Davis as the mother of the blues herself, Ma Rainey, and Chadwick Boseman as an ambitious-yet-stubborn horn player looking to dip his toe into bigger waters and become a famous blue artist himself.

This heartbreakingly tension-fueled tale is about the conflict between Ma Rainey, Boseman’s character, Levee, and Rainey’s record label in Chicago, and how they all have their own ideas in what to do with her song.

Right off the top of the bat, I have to mention this: as I previously stated, Boseman closes out his acting career on a sharply heartbreaking note and gives the best performance that he has ever given.

As the movie goes on, his character does things that many people would consider immoral, unjust and unprofessional. But this film does the unexpected with all of that in mind. It eases you into sympathy for him with two of the most powerful monologues from any film that came out in 2020.

Boseman delivers these speeches with such emotional intensity that packs one hell of a punch, and makes you understand what harsh, cruel mental pain and racial hardships can do to a man. It truly is a great shame that we won’t get to see more of Boseman, as this film demonstrates the truly incredible talent that he carried with him all this time.

Davis is also at her best here. When one thinks of Viola Davis as an incredible actress, they will most likely think of films like ‘The Help,” and her Oscar-winning film “Fences.”

Well, I am happy to report that upon viewing, you will want to add this one to the mix. Davis owns every scene she is in as an inspiringly fierce woman that will not take smack talk from no one. Careful not to make her mad, folks! She is not one to be trifled with!

Within the 90-minute runtime, you really feel the tension that this film is trying to give off. This is not just because of the sharp performances from the cast, but it is also due to the fact that director George C. Wolfe excellently utilizes the one setting that this film takes place in. It puts all these argumentative minds at even more odds with each other, and when mixed together with some incredible writing, it made me feel extremely uncomfortable at times in the best of ways.

The only issue that I have (and this isn’t really a criticism, more of a nitpick) is that there are characters in this movie that don’t get the spotlight too much when compared to Davis and Boseman. Though the film is without a doubt about them, it would have been nice to hear their backstories, as not all of them give their backstories. It’s a minor nitpick I have, but it is in no way, shape or form enough to make me say this film isn’t outstanding.

This film is easily the best film of the year 2020 for me. It has some of the best writing of the year, and two of the best performances from two outstanding actors who perfectly portray the heartbreaking hardships, and racial tensions that people in the African American community faced (and unfortunately in some ways, still happen to this day). It is now available on Netflix exclusively, and if you do have the streaming service at your disposal, please do not miss out on this one, it is worth every bit of your time.

Rest in peace to Chadwick Boseman, “Wakanda Forever!”

Jury Declares: A