Friday, February 5, 2021

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Adapted from August Wilson's play, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is most notable for the performance of Chadwick Boseman who earns the plum role of Levee, a dissatisfied horn player in Ma Rainey's (Viola Davis) band. The role was the last of Boseman's career, who died during postproduction, and it's one of his best as both of the script's most memorable scenes center around his character. The film definitely feels like a stage adaptation, even claustrophobic at times, with the band rehearsing in a small room prior to recording a new album.

Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, and Michael Potts complete the remainder of the band with Jeremy Shamos and Jonny Coyne rounding out the cast as the white producers desperate to get the recordings who Ma continues to fuck with over the course of the film by arriving late, insisting on doing the songs her way, and even including her stuttering nephew (Dusan Brown) on the recordings. As with the play, the film touches on themes of racism, art, power struggle, and the exploitation of black recording artists (the last of which is never more clear than in the film's final scene).

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