Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique dazzle in Bessie
Directed by Dee Rees
Written by Dee Rees, Christoper Cleveland, Bettina Gilois
The always remarkable Queen Latifah gives us a tutorial of blues singer Bessie Smith’s rise to fame and fortune including the usual downturn that comes with biopics of performers. First cast in this film in 1997, Latifah delivers a very physical performance* with a ton of nuance. Mo’Nique also is amazing as Ma Rainey, the singer who teaches Smith the value of performance, and alerts her to the many people who are standing by to cheat blues singers out of their money.
The verdict: Good
Cost: Free. Borrowed the DVD from the Multnomah County Library
Where watched: at home
Consider also watching:
- Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom
- We are the Best (because I can’t not recommend this punk rock girl film every chance I get)
*Aside from knock-down-drag-out fights, there is also enough enthusiastic sex to remind you that your generation wasn’t the first to invent sex.
- What was your favorite performance scene in Bessie?
- Do you prefer Mo’nique or Viola Davies as Ma Rainey?
Favorite IMDB trivia item:
Charles S. Dutton, who plays Pa Rainey, made his Broadway debut in 1984 in August Wilson’s play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Other reviews of Bessie:
- Virginia DeBolt, Old Ain’t Dead
- Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media