Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the Story of Levee
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Directed by George C. Wolfe
Written by Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Despite the title, this is really the story of Levee (Chadwick Boseman), the trumpet player in Ma Rainey’s band, but Viola Davis is a commanding presence all on her own.* As the hot day gets hotter and the recording session drags on, a lot of stories spool out of Rainy, Levee, and the other band members. It’s a film full of hard truths, great performances, an atmosphere that can’t be beat,** and a couple good punches in the gut, like any great story should have.***
The verdict: Recommended
Cost: Netflix monthly fee $8.99
Where watched: at home
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*I’d love to see both Boseman and Davis get a slew of awards nominations for their work on this film.
**From the sweat on the musicians in the recording studio to the tent revival to the stage performance this movie brings all the details.
***It’s a solid play-to-screenplay adaptation, too.
- What did you think of Ma Rainey’s attitude during the recording session?
- What was your favorite period detail?
Favorite IMDB trivia item:
Denzel Washington, who produced this film, had been a mentor to Chadwick Boseman since his college years. When Denzel Washington received his 2019 AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, Boseman recounted that he was one of nine of Phylicia Rashad’s Howard University acting students for whom Washington paid the full summer-program tuition at the British Academy of Dramatic Acting in Oxford.