Viola Davis portrays Ma Rainey, “Mother of the Blues” in the film set in a 1920s Chicago recording studio. Ma Rainey is a diva in her own right. She adorns herself in fur, is chauffeur-driven and her producer knows better than not to have a fan in the studio.
As Ma’s band members, Toledo the pianist (Glynn Turman), Cutler the guitar player (Colman Domingo), Slow Drag (Michael Potts) and Levee Green the trumpeter (Chadwick Boseman) await her arrival for a recording session, Levee spurs his fellow musicians into an eruption of stories, truths, and lies that will forever change the course of their lives.
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is entertaining and emotive at the same time. The story reveals sad truths about the exploitation of black artistes and the damaging effects abuse of a child’s parents can have on his/ her mental health. When the movie ended one could not believe it was over because of how captivating the actors were. You just want more. This is one really enjoyable performance by Davis – the picture of Ma Rainey gulping a bottle of Coca-cola will linger in your memory.
As for Boseman, he was an absolute show-stealer, giving an Oscar-worthy performance. His portrayal of the conflicted Levee Green has got to be the most memorable of all the performances in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Levee is a conflicted character whose very moving story will pierce through your soul. It was literally the performance of Boseman’s life.
Oh Chadwick, you left too soon! You will be missed.
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is streaming on Netflix.