3/4

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom [2020] ★★★

Fantastic performances from Viola Davis and the late, great Chadwick Boseman, enacting the Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s play, make “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” a must-see. I knew almost nothing about Ma Rainey, the blues legend who rose to fame in the early 20th century, and this movie isn’t a biopic in any way. It is, however, an intriguing look at what went down during a recording session in Chicago, circa 1927. You can basically feel the air of that rehearsal room, where a group of musicians gather before their session with Ma Rainey. In true August Wilson fashion, they discuss various topics, before tension rises between them. And every step of the way, we are reminded that these are real people with honest feelings and flaws. That’s what makes “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” so compelling. Boseman dominates the screen but every actor gets the chance to shine alongside him. And when the spotlight is on Viola Davis, we’re reminded once again what a remarkable actress she is. I streamed this film for the star power, but just like with 2016’s superior “Fences”, I came away with nothing but admiration for August Wilson. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is electrifying from start to finish.

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