December 13, 2020
Davis is formidable as Chicago’s ‘Mother of the Blues’, alongside a whip-sharp Chadwick Boseman in his final screen role, in this often stagey drama
Ma Raineys Black Bottom review – Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis share the spotlight
In 2016, Denzel Washington produced, directed and starred in the screen adaptation of August Wilson’s 1985 play Fences, earning a supporting Actress Oscar for Viola Davis, along with nods for best Actor, best picture and a posthumous screenwriting nomination for Wilson, who died in 2005. Davis is back in the awards-running for her dynamite role as “Mother of the Blues” Gertrude “Ma” Rainey in this latest screen adaptation of Wilson’s work, on which Washington again serves as producer. Like Fences, it showcases some tour de force acting, with Chadwick Boseman similarly at the top of his game in what would tragically prove to be his final screen role. Yet, like its predecessor, the theatrical origins of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom weigh heavy on this film, directed with a stagey air by Tony award winner George C Wolfe.
In late-1920s Chicago, the humid atmosphere of a dingy recording studio is made hotter by the broiling tensions between musicians, producers, managers and an increasingly recalcitrant star. The session will include cutting Ma Rainey’s signature song – a saleable disc that will doubtless earn more for its white backers than any of the black players making the music.
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