Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Film Review
There are spoilers! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I hadn’t seen a film this good since in what feels like forever. It’s classic. It’s a drama that’s sweltering and overflowing with how good stories are told. Idk if that makes sense to you but it’s a full story with played out with characters who think and more importantly FEEL! I believe the main portion of the film took place in two rooms. And I didn’t mind it all.
The dialogue was heavy and thick but comforting, like everything would be alright because everyone recognized and tried to understand the struggles of life, just like blues music.
It’s steamy, steady and full of life. I clicked play on this film because I thought, why not, it’s suppose to be good. NO I was wrong!
As I write these words there is so much emotion. This rollercoaster ride of a pandemic, protests, financial hardships, health issues and the TRUTH of the world revealing itself so clearly, and at sometimes violently, throughout 2020 is meticulously played out throughout this film.
For the first time in a long ass time I watched a movie and I felt the emotion pouring through the screen. I felt the characters. The way this film is written and shown is what makes “The Movies” all about. And Netflix brought it too us, what?? Yes!
I feel like I got a sense of normalcy back. I’m emotional, I’m inspired. The movie touched me on such a deep level that I’m so thankful I watched it.
Viola Davis played Ma Rainey. At times I didn’t recognize Davis. She was Ma Rainey, I felt her soul through the character. Wow! What a performance! Like…damn girl, you transformed into Ma Rainey. I couldn’t wait until Ma spoke, each and every time.
And then there was this quiet blending of two people, that started off as a spark and turned into a flame. The dynamic between Ma Rainey and Levee. Oh yes, their chemistry was the action in this film.
Chadwick Bosemen, may he rest in love and peace, played Levee. To me Levee is the other half of Ma Rainey. To me he feels like the younger side of Ma Rainey, before Ma Rainey learned how to use her power.
Boseman and Davis’s characters are one and the same. Both carry the spirit of seeing clearly what is happening around them. That being, racism and unfairness. It seems as Ma Rainey sees the most clear of all though.
The main characters are Ma Rainey and Boseman yet at times they support each other so well that to me they felt as one. Idk how to explain this so I’m going to leave this topic right here.
Both Davis and Bosemen’s characters want the best for themselves and know it is their right. While those around them can’t even begin to understand how these characters view this world and choose to operate within it. These two characters personalities seem far-reaching or arrogant or provoking to everyone around them.
Like Levee’s passion towards getting a band and recording new music. Or spending all his money on a new pair of shoes. Levee wants more, his band mates try to convince to know his place within the band. Levee’s spirit won’t quit despite their warnings. He doesn’t won’t to rehearse the music and he flirts with the lead singer’s gal. (BTW it is a little more than flirt but you get me.) Levee appears to be wild and foolish yet for me he reached for the stars. He tried, as others settled or took advantage of him.
And Ma Rainey calls all the shots during her recording session and will accept no less. She fearlessly argues with a white police officer in 1927! The tension in that scene had me really nervous, and it’s 2020. I was thinking “this must be where the movie turns and she gets attacked and put into prison or worse.” Nope I was so damn wrong. It also made me examine how much has really changed with how police treat black people from almost 100 years ago to now. Also how I view all of this interaction. Wild right?
Ma Rainey also is very open with her relationship with another woman. It turned all the heads of guests as she and her girlfriend walked into the hotel lobby and out of the hotel. Ma Rainey made sure to lock arms with her girlfriend before hand so guests could see them, as a couple perhaps. How forward is this! I love it!
Ma Rainey also calls all the shots at the recording studio. Did I mention this? Anyways Ma already knows how the music industry treats people like her. She already knew the “game” of recording when recording records was in it’s infancy. I love her brilliance.
Interesting thing is it feels like this may still be happening today. I’m not very familiar with the music industry but it felt like Ma Rainey was dropping gems and warnings back in 1927 about how it would go. Referring to her voice being recorded and sold to the masses like…well what’s the oldest profession in the world. Yeap you got it. Ma was pretty deep, she saw it all very clearly.
There are so many layers to this film I really don’t have enough time to talk about it all. One of the layers I must mention though. How Chadwick Bosemen played the character of Levee. I truly appreciate the art through film of Mr. Bosemen. I will always respect him for his work and how he literally poured everything into his work to share with the world. We will all be forever thankful for his gift to the world.
I know there are some spoilers but I really just touched the surface and gave my thoughts about the film. If you haven’t seen it you should. It’s an amazing story, told to us by AMAZING people.
Quick Art History Reads Art Film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom music
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