Chadwick Boseman’s last performance before passing away was in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Unfortunately, his performance wasn’t the greatest.
The movie as a whole wasn’t that interesting, as it spent most of the time dragging on. I think it was done on purpose to drum up tension as the movie relies so heavily on that and dialogue, being that it’s based on a play. When done well it’s great, but here it hinders the movie’s pacing, making it a slog to sit through.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom takes place in a day during 1927, largely at a recording studio where Ma Rainey and her band are working on her newest album. As the day passes we see all the issues everyone is dealing with. You have the band trying to work together while dealing with a young horn player with big dreams. We see him butting heads with Ma Rainey and we see her having to deal with her management who seem bent on controlling all aspects and she’s not having it.
Boseman is the young horn player by the name of Levee and he does all right in the part, but I couldn’t help but feel he was focused on more than the other more talented actors. Maybe because of his popularity from the Marvel movies as Black Panther. I just didn’t care for his performance, and I think he’s being overly praised now because he passed away. He even seems to be focused on more than Ma herself, which is a tragedy.
Ma Rainey is played by Viola Davis and she does a great job in the role. I wish she had more time devoted to her and maybe had the movie be based on her life as a whole. I think I would have found that more fascinating. Seeing biopics of musicians and singers are basically paint-by-numbers these days, maybe that’s why they took this approach.
Ma Rainey is a strong and independent woman and she doesn’t take any shit from her band or the white manager and studio person. Something you probably didn’t see much of in 1927.
The rest of the band, Colman Domingo as Cutler and Glynn Turman as Toledo were great. Both are good actors, but they felt overshadowed by Boseman, again something that hurt the movie altogether.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is just boring. It doesn’t do anything really wrong I guess, but for only about an hour and a half, it felt like three hours. The dialogue was fine, and the actors were mostly good, but nothing went anywhere and so even when the tension was rising, it felt unearned. Leading up to an ending that felt out of place and forced.